Friedman calls for a Third Party

We weren't the only ones completely disgusted with the recent political grandstanding over high gasoline prices. Tom Friedman is now calling for a third party, to replace the useless ones we have now, and specifically to deal with energy challenges. It's behind the NY Times paywall, alas, but here's some snippets:

Seriously, there is something really disturbing about the utterly shameless, utterly over-the-top Republican pandering and Democratic point-scoring that have been masquerading as governing in response to this energy crisis. The Republicans are worse, because they control all the levers of power and could move the country if they proposed a serious energy policy -- but won't.

"We used to say the system is broken because it won't respond until there is a crisis," said David Rothkopf, author of "Running the World," a history of U.S. foreign policy. But now it's really broken, "because the system can't even respond to a crisis!"

What to do? I'm hoping for a third party. The situation is ripe for one: America is facing a challenge as big as the cold war -- how we satisfy our long-term energy needs, at reasonable prices, while decreasing our dependence on oil and the bad governments that export it -- and neither major party will offer a solution, because it requires sacrifice today for gain tomorrow.

"There is an opportunity here for someone who will seize it," said Micah Sifry, author of "Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America." That someone would have to be a more emotionally stable and energy-focused Ross Perot type. Because, added Mr. Sifry, "if the issue of the day in 1991-1992 was the ballooning budget deficit that we were not dealing with, then the issue today we are not dealing with is the energy and environmental catastrophe that awaits the next generation. It is as much a mortgaging of our children's future as the deficit issue. It needs the right leader, though."

Like someone who will tell the truth: The only way Americans are ever going to enjoy relatively cheap gasoline again is if we raise the price now with a gasoline tax-- and fix it at that higher level for several years -- so investors know that it is not coming down, and therefore it makes economic sense for them to make the long-term investments in alternative, renewable sources of energy. That is the only way to break our oil addiction and ultimately bring down the price.

Yes, our system is rigged against third parties. Still, my gut says that some politician, someday soon, just to be different, just for the fun of it, will take a flier on telling Americans the truth. The right candidate with the right message on energy might be able to drive a bus right up the middle of the U.S. political scene today -- lose the far left and the far right -- and still maybe, just maybe, win a three-way election.

Sounds like a better plan than we have now. Who should we draft?

Oh come on Tom, you know you read TOD.  Just come on out and admit it.
World used to be flat, now it's an undulating plateau...
super g
is the site on the blink or is it my server/computer?
and I will point our readers to this post, where I explain why we have a two party system, and why it will take a Constitutional amendment and a drastic change for the system to ever become reactive (and caution: more emotional and much less stable politically and economically):

and then I will also point readers, if you're new, to our press release of last week, which pretty much said the same damned thing TF said:

Prof Goose,

We have the first amendment. It guarantees the wealthy will control the country. More $$$ = more speech.  Hence, there will be no political solutions to this problem (or any problem) that are not in the favor of the people who have the most $$$.

You're a uni prof, so my guess is you are not rolling in the cash. Which means the responses the people with the real $$$ come up with will (most likely) not be in your interests.



well, it was at least in some debate until Buckley v. Valeo (1976), which basically said free speech was equivalent to cash yes.  but you've got a freaking JD, so you know that.  :)

So the right to assemble to petition for redress ensures that the wealthy remain powerful? Somehow, I missed that in reading the coverage of the various demonstrations over the last couple of months for those who feel the current politics concerning immigration is not something they can simply ignore.

What I will grant you is that most Americans (excepting those recent and illegal immigrants) are far too lazy to care about anything but their comforts, which are draining away anyways.

Personally, I find this money=power equation a touch too simplistic in any political system which allows for the change of government without revolution and blood in the streets. Unless you think FDR and his various approaches to government during the Great Depression were just another example of the rich retaining power (I may add, the rich of the time would not have agreed with you - it has taken them generations to roll back Roosevelt's reforms).  

But as we all know, the most dominant voting block in American is the non-voter. I am not sure what that has to do with 1st Amendment rights, but it is certainly a sign of the sort of decay that anyone looking at democracy as a political system considers to be one of the incurable weaknesses which eventually destroys democracy. The founders of America read a lot of history, and the fact that the system they constructed has lasted a couple of centuries is proof that they understood much about democracy's fatal flaws - no one else at the time expected more than a few years.

But America has always been about the rich having power - didn't you learn that in history in school? Maybe coming from Virginia, these things are handled more honestly than other places - none of the Virginian Founding Fathers were of modest means - and their taste in plantations remains heads and shoulders above everyone else's, in my humble opinion.

FDR was a reformer, not a revolutionary. He did not want to get rid of the rich, or inheirited wealth like his, he wanted to keep them from self destructing completely.
In 1932 it was Roosevelt or Huey Long. Long would have stripped the rich of their wealth without blinking an eye.
Certainly he was a reformer, somewhat like another Roosevelt.

The point I was trying to make was that essentially in the eyes of his rich social contemporaries, FDR was a class traitor who sold them out, and not someone acting in their interests, short or long term.

Of course, we can see how it played out - which is why that comment about taking generations to roll back many of FDR's reforms is there. The rich didn't suddenly develop a social conscience following WWII - they faced Stalin, and then their nightmare of 'Communism' - only after that threat seemed safely over could they get back to work doing the one thing the rich can always be counted on - increasing their wealth without concern for any human being but themselves.

Yeah, you are right. The same thing happened in Britain after the Napoleonic wars. The welfare benefits were cut and the "corn laws" were increased as a sort of de facto tax increase. They weren't worried about Nappy landing and the peasants revolting.

There were two factions (oversimplified) of the rich back then. The FDR faction and the "Dupont" faction for lack of a better term.

The Dupont faction wanted no reforms. Had they gained power (they attempted a coup in '34) there would have been no reforms. The country would have seen a meltdown and probably turned to communism once the dust had settled.

The FDR faction was the smarter faction in my opinion. They knew that if they didn't help out the poor people a little bit (with the New Deal) the whole thing would go down the tube.

Imagine two brothers who co-own a plantation. FDR was the brother who figured we better give the slaves better working conditions or there going to burn down the plantation and hang the master's family. Smart move, in my opinion.




For those of you wondering about the attempted coup, yes it really did happend. History channel even did a documentary about it and their not exactly known for being a radicalist media outlet. For more info, read the original House documents confirming the whole damn thing:

A good summary here:

"So the right to assemble to petition for redress ensures that the wealthy remain powerful. . ."


Let's say the TOD editors organize an assembly to redress grievances surrounding our oil problmes.. Unless it is supported by the $$$ through the mass media it will not have any real effect.

Take a look at the letter they crafted. Guess what? Unless the mainstream media (NBC owned be General Electric, for instance) picks it up, some dumbass yelling "its the gays fault for high gas prices! God will bring down the prices once we get the gays!" over on Fox News will have 1000 times more influence then TOD, LATOC, FTW, combined etc.

Which "prophet-of-doom" has more influence in this country: yours truly or Tim Lahaye (sp?), the author of the "Left Behind" series and why?

It comes down to $$$.



At the end of the day you can always have a revolution.

Political solutions are always possible, given the will.

Which didn't work out so well for France in the 1790s. Well not for the aristocracy anyhow.

Their politics changed, but it was an exceedingly messy process.

In the same century it worked ok for the overseas colonies.

I don't see the revolution of 1790 as going wrong, although it laid out the process for the first total war in Europe.

Revolutions are the extreme political actions, they should be left for when all else fails.

This long bit is regards the wealthy will control:

Narco-Dollars for Dummies

"Sam and Dave Do Boat Loads
of White Agricultural Substances

Okay, let's start at ground zero. It is 1947, and World War II is over. America is ready to go back to work to build the corporate economy. We are in New Orleans on the docks.

Two boats pull into the docks. The first boat is full of a white agricultural product grown in Latin America called sugar. The owner of the cargo, lets call him Sam, sells his boat load of white agricultural substance to the sugar wholesaler on the docks for how much money?


Back on the docks, the second boat---an exact replica of the boat carrying Sam's sugar---is a boat carrying Dave's white agricultural product called drugs. [...]

Dave the drug man has a much bigger "cash profit per boat" than Sam the sugar man. Part of that is, of course, once Dave has set up his money laundering schemes, even after a 4-10 percent take for the money laundering fees, it's fair to say his tax rate of 0 percent is lower than Sam's tax rate. While it is expensive to set up all the many schemes Dave might use to launder his money, once you do it you can save a lot avoiding some or all of the IRS's take.

Look at your estimate of Sam and Dave's sales and profits. Now answer for yourself the following questions.

Who is going to get laid more, Sam or Dave?

Who is going to be more popular with the local bankers, Sam or Dave?

Who is going to have a bigger stock market portfolio with a large investment house, Sam or Dave?

Who is going to donate more money to political campaigns, Sam or Dave?

Whose wife is going to be bigger in the local charities, Sam or Dave's?

Whose companies will have more prestigous law firms on retainer, Sam or Dave's?

Who is going to buy the other's company first, Sam or Dave? Is Dave the drug man going to buy Sam the sugar man's company, or is Sam the sugar man going to buy Dave the drug man's company?

When they want to buy the other's company, will the bankers, lawyers and investment houses and politicians back Sam the sugar man or Dave the drug man?

Whose son or grandson has a better chance of getting into Harvard or getting a job offer at Goldman Sachs, Sam or Dave's?


Let's say that every year from 1947 through 2001, that the cash flow sales available for reinvestment from drug profits grew by $3 billion a year, throwing off that number times BIG PERCENT. Okay, assume that the reinvested profit grew at the compound growth rate of the Standard & Poor's 500 as it got reinvested along the way.

That amount is an estimate for the equity owned and controlled by those who have profited in the drug trade. Total narco dollars. How much money is that? I made an Excel spread-sheet once to estimate total narco capital in the economy.

My numbers showed` that Dave the drug man had bought up not only Sam's companies, but ---if you throw in other organized crime cash flows----a controlling position in about most everything on the New York Stock Exchange."

Every person concerned about energy issues NEEDS to read that "narco-dollars for dummies" article in its entirety if you want to know "how things work" and why writing to your politicians is a waste of time.

I already knew a lot about the drug war when I first read that articlea bout 2.5 years ago. It kept me up all night contemplating the implications.



Hello Professor,

I heartily agree.  Our institutions are working against our best interests when it comes to dealing with Peak Oil.  I just want to add a few things.

Just to strengthen your argument, Americans are VERY attached to our institutions.  The Constitution has become almost a sacred document in the the collective American conscience.  We will not give them up easily.

Second, in Collapse, Jared Diamond identifies this as one of the reasons societies may be vulnerable to collapse - an inability to recognize that cherished institutions, which may well have served a society well in the past, can be inadequate in dealing with new crises.

Third, the large (and accelerating) inequalities of wealth in the US tend to exacerbate our vulnerabilities to crises like PO, since the wealthy are largely insulated from the hardships high oil prices impose on the rest of us.  Since the wealthy by and large run the show, if they don't perceive a problem, they will be less inclined to find a solution.

Fourth, dealing with PO will require a significant degree of national unity.  Unfortunately, our political landscape has been significantly polarized over the last decade or two.  There is a level of animosity between the R's and D's which is greater now than any I've seen in my lifetime (I'm 36).  

I blame the Republicans for this.  The GOP in particular has grown increasingly ideological.  They have been frighteningly successful in promoted their sound bite politics and enforcing the party line.  Low taxes and free markets good, big gov't and gay marriage bad, you know the routine.  

Furthermore, they have turned mean.  Some of the attacks they engage in are remarkable.  I hear them say the D's are fascist, treasonous, racist, etc.  It won't be easy to get people to trust and respect each other again.

Second, ... - an inability to recognize that cherished institutions, which may have served a society well in the past, can be inadequate in dealing with new crises.

  You are correct to point the finger of blame at "cherished institutions". It is not the US Constitution at work here, but rather Adam Smith's Invisible hand, our undaunted belief in the American Dream and our blind chase after personal profit.

Peak Oil is an example of market failure. The Market says keep using oil until something more effective and cheaper comes along. There is nothing more effective. Therefore the tunnel vision formula reduces to "keep using oil". We will keep using it until we can no longer extract it economically from the ground and then that will be that.

When the markets fail, government must step in to take corrective action. Our current administration is in deep denial that Markets can ever fail. That is why they refuse to step in.

Nixon was an uber-capitalist and ultra-commie basher. Yet Nixon imposed price controls. Nixon made buddy buddy with Red China. He realized that the dogma he had been worshipping all his life was a pack of bullsh*t and he changed. Maybe he was a crook, but he was not a stupid crook.

The new Republicans, on the other hand, will never change. They are too dug into their extremist views to change. It is too much against their "free markets" religion to change. They are too stupid to see that the "free markets" movement is heading us straight over the cliff to that Wal-Mart in the sky, and SUV-in-every-garage, after life.

Speaking of Republicans, did anyone catch the latest Roscoe Bartlett show on CSPAN tonight?

At least his charts are getting better.
Now he has to work on delivery.

There was no emotion.
He still doesn't get it that his fellow creatures (a.k.a. humans) are emotion-driven, irrational animals who will stampede in response to an impassioned speech about God and Country --even if there is no rationale to it--  but will yawn in the face of dry didactics --even if our very lives depend on our paying attention.

P.S. Speaking of failed institutions, Past Peak has an eye opener on how well our compassionate conservatives are doing down there in post-Katrina NOLA. As Mother Bush is fond of saying, they are doing as well as they can for themselves.

This [disgraceful failure] is the kind of thing that we used to associate with the old Soviet Union and other failed states. No amount of "We're number one!" boosterism can disguise the fact that the US increasingly displays the characteristics of a failed state itself.
i watched part of Roscoe's show.  it was essentially the same talk as the recent hirsch/bartlett mp3.  i think that's the reason he had the talk down, but also why it seemed less spontaneous.

good though that he could get it out there while people are fretting about gas prices.

Fusion Voting is the answer. Allow a party to not only run it's own candidates but selectively endorse members of the other parties which makes that party decisive in many cases. We have it here in NY State.
Its not like 'ol Tommy boy didn't have a lot to do with today's state of affairs himself. There's nothing like helping to cause a mess, then turning around and pointing a finger in another direction - as if no one will remember the prominent part you played in creating it.

A third party will never play a truly important part in American politics - the other two would never allow it.

The other two have both been weakened, both internally and externally by the dead-heat they've been in for the last several years.  There are huge undercurrents of doubt within both sides, and fractures all over the place.  The right has the Market conservatives and the various faith groups, and an ever-unsteady reliance on 'the Common Man', and rural sector, as long as you don't count that as the 'Labor' and 'Poor' vote...  The Democrats have very little Left left.

In a nutshell, they can both try to preclude other parties, but they are increasingly Paper Tigers.. in a Burning House.  Do they really have the power to block out new movements much longer?

IMO, it doesn't really matter how much each party has been weakened - they control all of the mechanisms of power. Both are suffering from low poll numbers, but voters really have no viable alternatives.

Even if, by some miracle, a third-party managed to get a candidate into the presidential race who actually polled strongly on a national basis, the congress is full of nothing but democrats and republicans - a hypothetical third-party president could never get his or her programs implemented given the gridlock that would be thrown against them.

In short, the system is solidly stacked against any third party emerging as a major political force. I don't see it happening.

Boone Pickens for president!

"To force demand down, Pickens recommends taxing gasoline so it costs about $5 per gallon."

Wake up folks. Seriously. There are not going to be an political solutions.

Whatever political party is formed, it will be controlled by whoever has the $$$ and that ain't anybody posting at or editing or contributing to TOD. Does anybody here have the type of money Pickens has? He donated $500,000 to one of the Governator's causes recently as reported by the SF Chronicle last week.

What do you think taxing gas to $5 will do? For one thing all the academics who edit TOD could be facing job cuts or salary cuts cause people will be sending there kids to junior colleges instead of more expensive research institutions. From a purely selfish standpoint, I guess that would be a good thing since it would mean they'd have more time to post here at TOD. (Muahahahahahah!!!!) More to the point, it will expand the poverty draft so chickenhawks like Friedman can go on cheering for war like his dumbass did prior to the war in Iraq.

As far as the letter, it's great. Send it to some rich folks. They will make sure thier paid bitches (the elected oficials) do something in their best interest. Which may or may not be in the interests of people like us.



I may have a minor role in Boone's advocacy of a higher gasoline tax.  It may be a coincidence, but he came out in favor of the higher tax after I wrote him a letter asking him to support the Energy Tax/Abolish the Payroll Tax idea, i.e., we tax energy consumption in order to fund Social Security/Medicare.  (At his request, I had previously briefed his staff on the Hubbert Linearization technique).  

In any case, from what I have heard him say, and from what I have read, Mr. Pickens is advocating a higher gasoline tax, offset by a cut in the Payroll Tax.

(I tried to get Richard Rainwater to also publicly support the Energy Tax idea.  He wished me luck with the proposal,  but he replied that he is seeking less, and not more, publicity.)


If I was Rainwater, I'd be seeking less publicity also. What does he have to gain by becoming more visible on these issues? I mean the man already has $2 billion sitting around. Heck if I was him I'd sit around all day counting my money and laughing out loud ala Dr. Evil. "One million dollars!!!!"



I'd also have a harem. Just wanted to add that.



only "a" harem?  Matt, come on now.  You'd have two.  At least.
He did at least do the interview in Fortune, which is a lot more than a lot of billionaires have done.  
Very true. I can't say I'd have the wuevos to do the same if I had that type of coin.  



Have you have ever considered the hypotesis that other people might care for the future of this gloomy world?

So you have $2 billion. The next day Olduvai unfolds. What will you do with those $2 billion? Eat it? Use it as fertilizer in your garden?

That is largely an academic question. After having worked with billionaires for 10 years, I can assure you that it takes a certain competitive drive and individual motivation for 'more' that allows these people to continue way past the point of infinite wealth (your yearly expenses divided by the treasury rate). The ones that are willing to sacrifice meaningful money and time (like 50%) stop the game way before they are billionaires.

Not to say there arent rich philanthropists, its just that the drive for inclusive fitness runs deep at that level.


The sweet smell of behavioral ecology.

thelastsasquatch = gets it

Jay Hanson lives on.



I concur - there will be no political solutions.  

I'm sympathetic to the suggesions most folks post here - slap a tax on gasoline, improve CAFE standard, etc.  And I'm all in favor of fighting for them, contacting members of Congress and so forth.

But ultimately, I think it's a losing battle.  Just look at the proposals coming out of Washington, the ones that might have a chance of passage:

I)  A $100 rebate check to everyone

II) A windfall profits tax on the oil companies

III) drilling in ANWR

IV) An investigation into price gouging

My heart wants to believe we'll get people to recognize the problem we face and to take rational corrective action, but my head says we're doomed.

My heart wants to believe we'll get people to recognize the problem we face and to take rational corrective action, but my head says we're doomed.

After listening to all the talking heads last weekend, I would say we still have a major problem making our so called leaders take issue with peak oil and its ramifications.. Hell, I cannot even get my local or national legislator to respond to any of my emails about peak oil or energy issues.

I'm afraid that we will have to wait for a disaster far bigger than Katrina, to get people to change their ways and thinking about energy issues..

NBC's Today show had a fair and tilted interview with Exxon chairleader Tillerman this morning to address our PP problem (pain o' de pump). He said, "We will not run out of oil" in a very deep baritone voice. It was so alpha male-ish. No hint of Matt Simmons or Matt Savinar (the other alpha) being invited to NBC to do a point counterpoint with our assuring leaders of industry. Thank goodness MSM is delivering the "truth" to the American sheeple.

(click to see news buster story & reader comments)

Oops sorry, wrong picture and link. Click here instead.
You won't see me on the MSM television outlets. I've never been invited but even if I was I wouldn't go on. I prefer to stay in my dark but well-mapped out and familiar corner of the "wilderness of the interent" to borrow a phrase coined by Kunstler.



go on, call o'reilly.
As far as talking heads,
Matt Simmons was on Morning Edition the other morning
Julian Darley was on Democracy Now this morning.
They were both paired with counter opinionators, Yergin and Lynch I believe, for the sake of a "Balanced" viewpoint.  
But at least they are on relatively well observed media saying what needs to be said.  
How about having Jay Hanson as the "balance" to Matt Simmons? That would be the spectrum of likely futures that we actually need to be trying to sort out:  Soft landing v. hard crash.  
-Matt S in DC
I think the gas tax is too little too late.  We're looking at possibly $80 for the front contract, and probably more coming into the hurricane season as the world adjusts to a 4Mbd deficit.  When the first cyclone forms in the Gulf late July early August the price will jump.  If the storm strengthens and threatens landfall we could see more.  If the Gulf is devastated again, will they rebuild it?
Journalist Dan Haar was on CNBC this morning debating a much higher gas tax, offset by cuts to the Payroll Tax, with a guy from the Cato Institute.  I traded a couple of e-mails with Dan this weekend, and I gave him links to my articles.  The topic is at least beginning to be more widely discussed.
Good job WT! Keep up the great work!
I saw someone endorse the gas tax and payroll rebate plan on MS NBC last night (I'm sorry, I should have written down who said it).  I do remember Tucker Carlson in a little on-screen box (not his show) boggling at the idea.  Even when they guy explained that it was revenue neutral Carlson boggled again and said "no one will get that."

Two steps forward, one step back, I guess.

Are you trying to tell me that Americans can't find a solution to this problem?  I believe that no problem is too tough for good ole American ingenuity and no problem will break the spirit of this country.  Are you asking our elderly on fixed imcomes and those that can't tighten there belts to do more than they already have?  Shame on you!  We can beat this thing and we don't have to beat the elderly or the poor to win.  We're a nation of winners, and if I am elected I will harness the talent of America and we will prevail!

Or you could just blame gay marriage for our problems.



Rhetoric and nationalism wont do it man.
I must comment on suggestions here by Friedman and by other people on this website about the imposition of a hefty gasoline tax here in the US. While it seems to do well in Europe and will lead to greater conservation and energy efficiency there are three key reasons why it won't work here:

  1. Mass transit systems are much less advanced and reliable than in Europe. How many people outside of the NE corridor use trains (Amtrak) to get from place to place? The speed of trains here is abysmal compared to Europe or Japan (21st century and most of our trains still top out at 70-90 mph???). Or, for that matter, subways, light rail, etc. The main reason why most people don't use these is because the system is extremely inconvenient, slow, and limited in its ability to getting people to specific destinations.

  2. The US is much, much, much larger and less densely populated than any European country. Wisconsin at 5.5 mil or so is about the size of Germany with 80 mil. Hence, people are extremely spread out and de-urbanized. Furthermore, trucks need to transport "stuff" A LOT farther from the ports of entry on the coasts to the heartland.

  3. The American "car culture." Think of drive-thru fast food joints as an example. If tomorrow even 15% less people drove, these and other car-dependent businesses would suffer  (It is more economical to keep them late than have the whole restaurant open).

There are more reasons, but I think these are the main ones. Having said this, I think that a gradual increase in gas taxes would be ok. However, a better solution would be dramatic increases in fuel efficiency. Obviously, a dramatic improvement in mass transit throughout the country would be the best option. However, the cost of such a large-scale improvement akin to what most European countries would take a really massive economic and time investment.
My primary reason for advocating a much higher gasoline/energy tax is that it is going to accelerate what is going to happen anyway, which is basically Friedman's point.  

I am specifically advocating the Energy Tax/Abolish the Payroll Tax idea combined with Alanfrombigeasy's Electrification of Transportation proposal.  Will we succeed?  Probably not, but at least we will have tried to implement some kind of constructive solution, rather than debating whether we should die of starvation or eat the family pets and/or neighbors first.


This is a comment I made sometime back, it seems the most practical means of reducing gas consumption without impacting the lower income folks.
Even though being and old fart, I believe an additional $2 tax on a gallon of gas is very necessary. Our current consumption of 140 billion gallons of gas would generate 280 billion dollars of Taxes. The 7.65% payroll tax paid by employees would be removed on the first $ 50,000 of earned income. The 7.65% paid by employers would remain and the self-employed would only pay 7.65% on the first $50,000.
After $50K of earned income there would be an incremental increase in pay-roll taxes up to the current  7.65%. The 7.65% would extend out to the current max cap on earned income and could be extended as is currently being done to insure sufficient funds to meet our currently projected requirements. Each working person would then receive an additional $765 for each $10K of earned income to compensate for the tax on 382 gallons of gas or about 8000 miles of avg. mileage or 40k miles for $50K or more. There certainly would be an incentive to save on gas and have more to spend on Whoppers.  Of course old farts like me with no earned income and who do most of the voting would object, as would the very rich, and all the self serving congress-folks beholding to their lobbyists.
Then we should also incrementally increase the tax on over the road and through the air commercial diesel consumption, to provide additional incentives for rail traffic. That won't happen until we are short of diesel.
How much do you suppose both would reduce our current 21 mbd consumption?
i'm sorry, but everyone please stop telling me how big the US is.  that simply does not matter in consumer gasoline use.  what matters are local conditions: distance to schools, distance to work, distance to shops, and the transit options to get there.

We may indeed need better mass transit to get to work, and we may indeed need better bike trails for kids to get to schools .. but I do NOT need to drive from California to NY to buy eggs!

See my comments below concerning growing power for local governments vs. federal government.  I think it pertains directly to what you bring up.
Actually it does matter to some extent that the USA is big, even if it's not the dominant issue. Plenty of driving is done to cover huge sales territories in sparsely populated regions. Plenty more is done in the form of really long RV vacations and the like that are not nearly as prevalent in Europe. And then we have the retired "full-time" RV nomads, also not as practical in Europe.

Then there's the way the country's size encourages vast amounts of oil-guzzling flying, all the more convenient because at the other end of the flight, you're still in the same country. No language and passport hassles. As a European, you might be less likely to need to fly constantly to stay in touch with relatives, or with other branches of your company, since most European countries are so tiny there's little need to fly within them.  

That's not to discount the importance of local conditions, which are a major factor. After all, most Hawaiians live on Oahu. Although they live on a small island that's almost a city-state, with no place really to drive to, they're so exercised about gasoline prices that they actually have price controls.

i remember when danes were a big component of greek vacation camps.  are you sure vacations are "bound" by borders?

(for that matter, i met a lot of germans in the canadian yukon)

Has anyone seen a breakdown of exactly how much gasoline is used for things like commuting, weekend errands, summer vacations and other things?  Both in terms of vehicle miles travelled and in terms of number of gallons of gasoline?
googling (and just taking the search hits as correct) the average driving vacation is 800 miles.  assuming one per year, that's less than 4% of the typical family's 21,000 mile VMT.

vmt data here:

[Warning: Irrelevant Fact being quoted]

There are a lot of countries bigger than the US who use less oil.

[End Warning]

These reasons are essentially saying that we must artificially prop up an infrastructure and pattern of doing business in this country--drive in fast food and wal-marts--that will be dead soon enough anyway, no matter what.  The gas tax would be  basically like taking the sick dog out behind the barn and shooting it.  Put it out of its misery so we can get on with whatever we will replace it with.  We can't spend any more energy pretending that Fast-food-Wal-Mart has a future.  The gas tax will be one bullet for the sick dog.  
The sooner the better.  
-Matt DC
Maybe John Anderson as an example of third party politics - remember his 1980 proposal to raise the gas tax by 25 cents?

The more things change, repeats as farce, whatever.

To repeat my mantra - the U.S. is in for a world of hurt.

1980 would have been a good point to start working on that 15-20 years to prepare for the peak, except the American people decided a former actor/adman was the best way to deal with reality, and its threats to the American way of life.

At this point, a third party is just more whistling past the graveyard for a society which is poised for a long hard fall. The American political system is merely one problem among a myriad - none of them likely to be able to be hidden behind clever marketing much longer. (Anyone else notice that poor English citizens are healthier than rich American ones - and considering that England is considered the worst of the European societies in health questions, that is really saying something. But remember, America leads the world in health care, right? Like America is number one in so many things, at least in the minds of its citizens.)

Tom Friedman gets my blood boiling.  I don't know why anyone takes him seriously.

There will be no viable 3rd party candidacy in the near term because:

  1. The other 2 parties will fight it tooth and nail.  Just look at how the Dems fought the Nader candidacy - they tried to keep him off the ballot and changed the debate rules to keep him out.

  2. The only successful campaign will be at the presidential level.  Even if it could be pulled off, the party would literally only be the prez himself.  There would be no supporting infrastructure, no 3rd party members of Congress, etc.  Even if elected he would be essentially impotent.

  3. From what I can gather, the Perot candidacy gave 3rd parties a bad name.  Lots of people are fed up with the D's and R's, but I think they are cynical about all politicians as well.  Perot's candidacy didn't go terribly well (bowing out, then back in, wigging out about the R's "dirty tricks", etc.), and people still remember it.  I doubt people will be as welcoming.

  4. Where is the money going to come from for a successful run?  There aren't too many people with Perot's net worth who can bankroll such an effort.

  5. Finally, there is insufficient understanding of our energy predicament among the populace to support some maverick energy 3rd party.  Most Americans can't even find Iraq on the map.  The predictable attack ads and obfuscation tactics would work all too well.  I can see it now, "candidate Smith doesn't believe in America," etc.
I think the Green Party is a third party.  There are others as well.

If enough disaffected Republicans and Democrats were to join the Greens, we might have something viable.

I think that many Republicans and Democrats can look at the "Ten Key Principles" of the Greens and affirm them strongly.

I do wonder if TF (I don't know if he's Republican or Democrat?) as a NeoCon is trying to split a faction away from the Dems in order to weaken them.  The Republicans have consistently won by splitting the opposition with wedge issues -- oh, and mostly by fraud, intimidation of voters in Democratic precincts, and by using Supreme Court selection of POTUS when elections look too tight for comfort.

Having stated my suspicion of TF, I must say that this is only a suspicion.

It may well be that TF really wants to see change and cannot imagine it coming out of the monstrosities that pass for political parties in the USA.

I know that I cannot see any change coming from the two-headed Republicratic Party of the USA.

This is a mid-term election year, so it is at least premature to give a lot of thought to a third-party Presidential campaign. If you live in one of the 18 states where the Green Party has ballot access, or in a state where some other alternative party has that access, you might consider running for the federal senate or house of representatives, or for state or local office with a platform emphasizing energy conservation. For that matter, it may not be too late to file in Democratic or Republican primaries although, if you do, it will not be possible for you to get on the fall ballot as an independent or alternative party candidate.

Generally, a platform of conservation will include support for redevelopment of cities, removal of subsidies to further development of suburbs, and support for public transportation over building new roads. A tax on fossil fuels can be presented as keeping the money in this country instead of sending it overseas, as well as an aid to minimizing global warming. How you integrate an energy policy with, for instance, the 10 Key Values of the Green Party, if you are running as a Green, is an open question. The point is, an emphasis on energy conservation can be perfectly compatible with the general principles of the Green Party.

Even if you don't think you will win office with such a campaign, there are several reasons to go ahead with it. It will put the issues into public discussion, to the extent you are able to get some publicity for your positions. It will give you a chance to contact like-minded people in your community, and make plans for future political activity. After all, the issues will not disappear after the fall election. You will learn a great deal about the range of ideas current in the minds of the voting and non-voting public. You could help build the organization to make a third-party candidacy in 2008 more forceful. And of course, there is always tha chance, if you are running for office, the chance that the confluence of events will be such that you will win.

The last is unlikely, but at least possible. If you are not on the ballot, it is not possible at all.

Want to take this discussion into your community? Consider becoming a candidate.

Art Myatt

" Just look at how the Dems fought the Nader candidacy - they tried to keep him off the ballot and changed the debate rules to keep him out."

FWIW, this effort was seen and talked about, and has been costing the Dems both votes and respect in their desperate attempts to retain them.  I was ready to support Kerry until the DNP started pulling people's Peace signs at the Convention in Boston, sending 'off message' groups to an all-too familiar 'FreeSpeech' pen.. and after the Maine Dem party took altogether extraordinary pains to remove Nader from the ballot up here.  I don't think the people are bad, but the party is a twitching corpse at this point.  Call the pastor and say the rites already.  Writing's on the wall.

All the 'Realists' notions about third parties are absolutely correct, and will be shockingly undermined when the next big one bursts through, which may not be far off.  We have such disdain for upstarts, even we, the upstarts.. it's just such a conformist, conservative mentality we run with in the US, while we 'fully support their right to express themselves'

Over and over people bleat about a gas tax. Simply not going to happen any time soon. Any politician who proposes such a thing outside of MA has no chance of being re-elected, and they all know it.
This kind of story surely gives you hope. The only way to make it unfold is us the peakoilers and oil drummers of the world to make those new parties and politics, because no one else will do it.

And man, that is nothing but easy...

People tend to blame the political system and the two parties (and God knows there is plenty there to blame), but we should keep in mind that politicians follow the people and the polls, and there is little if any public consciousness that there is any real shortage of oil looming on the horizon. Every media article has the obligatory "of course we are not running out of oil..." The entire economy has been geared towards selling SUVs and keeping GM and Ford solvent, and denying there is any reason for the party to ever end.

Therefore, when prices go up, the rational thing for people to think is that someone is manipulating the prices and supplies. And it is perfectly reasonable for them to demand that their political leaders "fix" the situation.

Politicians are in the same boat as everybody else, relatively ignorant, caught up in the moment, and now scrambling to figure out some way to "fix" the problem; which to most of their constituents means lowering the price of gas. And maybe locating and punishing those guilty of profiteering or manipulation.

Without a broad understanding of peak oil, any steps to raise the price of oil would be political suicide.

My own take on this is that the market will soon raise the price of gasoline anyway (it is doing an effective job already).  And as the markets and populations become convinced that it is a permanent condition, they will change their behavior and be open to explanations of why there are shortages.

Political movements and perceptions tend to be like waves on the beach; the water all runs one way, then gradually loses momentum and comes to a stop just for a moment -- then it is immediately running full bore the other direction. Once we clearly see peak oil in the rear view mirror it will very quickly become conventional wisdom, and everyone who argued otherwise will simply try to change the subject.

Once peak oil becomes conventional wisdom, I would bet that the terms of the debate will change, so that Republicans argue that markets should take care of the transition, while Democrats will argue for government oversight.

I must confess amazement that prominent Texas oilmen seem to be taking the latter course.

Wise words!
Jim Burke,

You are quite correct.

  1. Third Party politics is very difficult. I often vote that way out of disgust and did so with "The Anderson Factor" in 1980. I don't think he got more than about 6%.
  2. running on a ticket to raise gas taxes is a big loser.
  3. as to one prominent Texas oilman, they are seeing some reality. I find it interesting Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) is a Republican.
Re:  Texas Oilmen
Subject: What Are Two Texas Billionaires,
Richard Rainwater & T. Boone Pickens,
Saying About Peak Oil & Why Aren't You Listening?

". . . we should keep in mind that politicians follow the people and the polls,"


They follow the money.

The money controls the mass media. (Rupert Murdoch owns Fox, Ted Turner owns CNN, General Electric owns NBC, etc.)

The people get their information from and opinions shpaed by the mass media.

It's all about the $$$. At the risk of soudning shrill, anybody who is talking "politics" or politicians and not $$$ simply doesn't get it.




I agree with you that money is extremely influential, but it is not the ultimate arbiter.

For example, Arianna Huffington's Republican ex-husband thought that being filthy rich could buy him into politics. I believe his California senate run was the best funded in history. But even dramatically outspending his opponent, he still lost heavily. Not only that, but his now ex-wife decided to devote herself to skewering him and everything he stood for through newspaper columns and her Huffington Press.  

Madison Avenue and Hollywood history are littered with examples of dogs that no amount of advertising could salvage.  

Money has a powerful edge in influencing votes and consumer choice, but the masses of people (voters and consumers) still vote with their feet.


Make that $$$ plus TT (=Think Tanks).

Money alone is not good enough. You need those think tank people who run the focus groups and figure out how to mentally manipulate the herd. What buzz noises is the herd resonating with today? Pain o' de Pump? Addiction ta Foreign Oil? Iranian nukes? Mushroom cloud? Evil oil barons?

Use the right noise to get them to flock to your way of thinking and then you rule the roost.

John Kerry thought he could "intellectualize" with the herd --he still does. The stampeding animals don't function like that. They tune in on the noise of the day. They tune out all other noises. They run without reason. They run for fear. They run with blinders on. They run to save their own privatized asses. Tunnel vision pure and simple.

...Arianna Huffington's Republican ex-husband thought that being filthy rich could buy him into politics.

They buy politics, not buy their way into politics. The last thing the impossibly wealthy want is public attention. O.k., types like ex-Exxon chairman Lee R. Raymond get greedy and get attention, but in comparison to the upper ½% that own it all he is just a servant.
It is very odd to hear these complaints about the US dependency of oil imports. Most OECD countries are oil importers, but the US has the best position among them. Compare the US, and for instance, Japan. The US has still considerable domestic production - and not only oil but gas and coal as well. Japan has none. US has important and very stable oil supplier very near - Canada and Mexico, but Japan imports most of its oil from the Middle East. The US can decrease its oil consmption relatively easily by increasing efficiency and also by substituting some of it by other energy sources and biofuels. Japan cannot - it imports all its energy and has no capacity for biofuel production, besides, its energy usage is already very effective and improving the efficincy further is very difficult. Besides the US has considerable military and political power to control its oil suppliers - Japan has much less.

The European Union is in a better position than Japan but in worse than the US. Why do the Americans complain, but the others don't? I think this is sheer denial - because the US is in a better position the Americans think that the consequences of the Peak Oil could somehow be avoided - if only the politicians could take the right action. And yes, those consequences could really be much less severe than elsewhere, at the cost of the rest of the world, of course. The real problem lies right here.

This is where I say 'infrastructure.' You are absolutely correct in noting that the U.S. is a better position than Japan in terms of energy resources. What the U.S. lacks is the current infrastructure to allow it to function in a world of decreasingly available fossil fuels. And the U.S. likely lacks the ability to invest in such infrastructure over the next 10 years - living off your savings tends to have a bad end, especially when you don't stop merely at exhausting your savings, but keep going into debt as deeply as possible.

Speaking very generally, I prefer infrastructure to natural resources - most nations with vast natural resources tend to have real problems (excepting some Commonwealth members and Norway), while most nations with good infrastructure are generally pleasant places to live. I am pretty certain that the Japanese rail system will be working a lot better in 10 years than either the American road or rail system.

Leading us to avert nuclear war,reasource wars & starvation is task. Yes we need a 3rd party. The party that is the most truthful about our problems gets my support; because at this point no clear solutions stand out.
Infrastructure change is slow, but the benefits will be long-lasting.  I'm not convinced that we truly lack the resources to make meaningful infrastructure investments over the next 10 years -- there is A LOT of 'slack' in our economy, a lot of luxury spending and new home construction energy and resources that could be used to make these investments.

Depending how closely the post-peak US parallels the 1930s, there may be just such a window of opportunity to use a great deal of manual labor (and nonrenewable resources that formerly went to homebuilding) to make a great deal of valuable investments to help negotiate the decline.

Actually, it could happen - this is one reason I am not a doomer.

But it isn't really all that likely in my opinion.

Personally, the fact that I have no idea how it will happen does not make it impossible by any means.

Heavy infrastructure investments are very energy-intensive. Trying to change the system only demands more energy...
I actually can't quite agree - running rails down Interstate 40 would be pretty trivial in terms of energy use is my guess.

The odds of it happening are essentially zero, but not because it would be too energy intensive.

And not as a personal comment - this American belief that everything has to be new is one of the bedrock problems. Reusing what is already done is necessary, except it tends to lead to be considered inferior, or even un-American. There certainly isn't much profit in it.

For a good laugh, and another indication that new parties are needed, one could not do better that a quote from Hon. Sen. Jim Talent about the $100 rebate idea:

Sen. James M. Talent (R-Mo.) declared, "It will show people that Washington gets it."

Say no more, please.

Most folks realize when predicting peak oil we are walking into a heavy fog, however when it comes to the 2008 election we are looking at a deep dark hole. The best thing the politicos can do today is keep their big mouth shut, for whatever they say will no doubt be used against them in 2008. The enormous changes that I expect to take place in the next two years will provide for the greatest voter turnout in American history. The direction of these new voters will be determined by events. The name of the next President may now only be known by his family and friends, and also not as a candidate. I expect to see the 2008 election provide the greatest turnover of Congress that has ever occurred. Hold on to your hat events are accelerating.
"The greatest turnout in American history"
If there is an election.  Will we have moved into a state of emergency of sorts?  
-Matt in DC
Maybe we can get Friedman on board with the Sustainability Party.  At least it would be an opening for lots of publicity.
Here's a 50-minute interview with Tom Friedman from Monday's 'On Point' with Tom Ashbrook.

Crude Reality

Give it a listen. His views are a lot closer to ours then some of us give him credit for.

Good stuff from the call-ins, too.

Jesus they make it damned near impossible for someone who just wants to download an MP3 without installing iTUnes or any of the rest of that crap.  I have done it in the past - I have the MP3 files on my disk to prove it, but they seem to have eliminated that possibility.  If it is still possible, they have hidden it so well I could no longer find it.

I absolutely don't want itunes on my laptop.  These things have a way of changing settings that I don't want changed, or launching programs every time your laptop boots up or other sorts of unfriendly things.  Just say no.

I was ready to flame the hell out of them for this stupidity.  I still might...

I finally had to install iTunes on my desktop machine, try and configure it to not go and do tons of stuff behind my back, download the mp3 program, find the mp3 on disk, then copy the mp3 to my laptop.  God damn what a hell of a lot of work just for one stupid program.

iTunes is a royal pain in the posterior.  I refuse to have it on my computer.  I've removed QuickTime as well, since it now comes bundled with iTunes.  

I tried installing it once, and it immediately tried to take over DVD drives - even though I told it not to.  It ended up making both my DVD drives invisible to Windows.  It was so entwined with my registry that I was forced to roll back to get rid of it, and spent the rest of the weekend searching for Quicktime substitutes.  

Some of the more paranoid Mac users think that Microsoft intentionally makes Windows incompatible with Quicktime.  :-P

This is just a link to the show's web page. The file(which is there) requires either Windows Media Player which should be on your computer(if it's Windows), or RealPlayer.

Yes, I know.  I saw that, but that wasn't what I wanted.  I wanted an MP3 that I could listen to later.  Couldn't find it.  Had to install iTunes on some machine and cross my fingers that it didn't screw something up.
If you know how to record MP3's, you can take an audio cable and connect your audio-out plug to your audio-in plug and do it that way. There are also some small programs that will record streaming audio. Probably not worth the hassle unless you wanted to do more of this in the future.
Click on "Download the latest OnPoint Podcast".
Click the picture of "On Point".
Right Click "WBUR 5375472.mp3"
Select Save Target as.

Or use this link.


After seeing what happened in New Orleans and the ineptitude of both parties to prevent or react to this crisis, I am convinced that the federal government has lost it's effectiveness to react to Peak Oil.

What I have seen that is encouraging are moves by city and state governments to act independently of the federal government (i.e., San Francisco's Peak Oil Resolution

I think this will be our future.  Efforts should be made to give local governments more power to prevent/react to this changing environment.  This is the reality that is setting in.  People can't wait for the federal government to get it's act together.  Smaller governments can change quicker and are more suited to meet the needs in a changing local environment.

There will not be "one" solution for this country.  There will many different solutions based on many different situations.  Some will work and some will fail, but I am convinced that it will happen.

I will not waste my efforts on any national government that is not looking forward to the future in a rational manner.

Quite correct.  Kunstler (and others) hit on this with his commentary regarding the ineffectiveness of such a large and slow-reacting beaurocracy, even if it were to be subsumed by a populist, grass roots movement through the normal political process.  Hurricane Katrina proved graphically that the federal government cannot effectively tackle even a localized problem.

Besides, the last time a grassroots, populist movement was sucessful in getting a third party elected into a national decision making position was 1908 (Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party), a very, very long time ago.  The US political system has changed dramatically since then, and not for the better.

Teddy Roosevelt succeeded in making that racist lunatic Woodrow Wilson president in the 1912 election. The Republicans didn't turf him out in 1916 by only 20,000 votes in California, first, because he kept us out of war and the voters were afraid that the Republicans would get us in, and second, because the Democrats wouldn't let blacks vote in the southern states and that let them steal some electoral votes.
The nasty problem here is that there are no real "solutions". So no new party will be able to find a "solution". What do you expect the solution to be? Raising gasoline taxes? OK, but it will not affect the decline of the oil supply or bring down the oil prices. It will consumed elsewhere. Alternatives? Too late, too little. There are no solutions to the Peak Oil problem, but it is possible to mitigate the effects on people's lives. So in effect there is no "energy problem" to be "solved" but only social and political problems that are solvable.

So you see: we are quite likely now on the top of the Peak, but nothing much has not really happened (well, Iraq and Iran...). All those people are not dumb or ignorant, subsitutes for oil has been searched from the '70s on. Now we see the results. It is possible to consume less oil in the US, but only at the cost of economic well-being. Nothing  much has been done because there is not much to do. Go, try  to form a Third Party on energy issues, and you will see.  

that all depends on your projected rate of decline.

certainly with moderate rates of decline solutions are possible.

i think we need to rationally apportion responsibility.  maybe the federal government should do some national fuel (or carbon) taxes, and fund some research, but cut down on subsidies for production.  local governments probably are better suited to understand and adjust their transportation mix.

i agree misbegotten federal programs are a great danger.

Here is an example of municipal agency taking positive actions despite the federal government:

Solar for your home: PV Pioneers

(I give credit to my brother, who works for SMUD in Sacremento, CA, for forwarding this to me.)

Well, the more I read here and in many other places, the more I get the feeling that sooner or later it will come down to one word - secession.

It's the only way left for people to regain control of their government...

I think some time in my lifetime, this could be a distinct possibility.  Increased entropy in the federal organism as there is less energy to maintain it's cohesiveness.

Hopefully, if it were to come to secession, this could occur without violence.  Only time will tell.

"We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit they're dazed and confused. The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic."
Hunter S Thompson, 2000

I've made this point before but everyday it appears to be more and more accepted, so it's worth mentioning again.  What is happening in the world is incredibly, disasterously weird.  Generally, weirdness occupies an absurd, black funhouse of mirrors, but the paradigm seems to have shifted to a morose paranoia.

What's needed is a real leader to step up and snap the American consciousness back to reality instead of this dreamy haze you can see in most people's eyes.  What we have now, and likely what we'll get from either party, is a leader who sees that haze and wonders how to exploit it.  

Someone earlier said who we should draft for the third party.  Let me just put out a name here:  Stephen Colbert.  What he did was... beautiful, and to stand 3 feet away from an obviously fuming Bush and say what he said... amazing.  

Colbert for Prez - 2008

It was truly brilliant and you know if anyone had seen any advanced script he would have been pulled from the line up.  What blows me away are the Democrats coming out and saying he crossed the line.  This just galvanizes my opinion of both parties.
IMO Colbert rubbed the MSM media's nose in their pathetic performance these last five years. People are claiming Colbert bombed.  Well, he bombed with Bush and his lap-dog press, but wowed the rest of us.
If you equate "bombed" with not making Bush laugh, then yes he bombed.  Do you believe his intent was to get Bush to laugh or get the public to wake up?  He was successful in dishing up a heavy dose of reality in Bush's face.  Perhaps a better phrasing would be "he dropped a bomb" that night.

He did something many people have tried unsuccessfully to do at Bush gatherings for the last 6 years.  Display his right of Free Speech in front of the President.

Yes.  He dropped a big bomb of truthiness.

And it was beautiful.  Although, I will admit I think it went a big long.  In the middle it was slightly tedious.  But, still, it was the best public attack ever made at the Prez and the press.  It's just a shame that the MSM refuses to play any of it.  I was sure I would see it on This Week with George Stephanapholous (whatever), as he really likes Stewart and Colbert, but even he left me down.

We should try to convince people to boycott Big Media instead of Big Oil.  

I don't think you can go a bit too long when making fun of the President.  There is soooo much material and so little time.
What makes you think you will get another chance to vote for any party?

Out of work demagogues run all sorts of risks when no longer in power.

There may well be a fire in the Reichstag before 2008...

Regarding the health of Brits v Americans from further up the thread: Probably true , but we still have british dental standards.

Does this relentless drooling for a gas tax really coincide with the TOD audience, who I think of as being more solution oriented?  The gas tax is political suicide.  Three dollar a gallon gas is already a tax!  A gas tax will not happen but for an insignificant amount.  I think the TOD blog an excellent format for understanding and resolving problems, much as our Petroleum/Energy Manifesto, which while written by the editors was distilled, certainly, from rigorous TOD discussion, from international participation, etc..

How about an on-going "solutions" thread.  TOD'ers could probably add a lot to this discussion.

I like the idea of raising the gas tax in exchange for lowering the payroll tax.  

However, I agree it's politically impossible.  Not because raising gas taxes is verboten, but because messing with social security is.  The AARP is gonna have a cow.  

Unless we find a way to get the AARP on board, this gas tax idea is about as likely as a perpertual motion machine.

I have to agree with you, however IMO TSWHTF before Nov 1st 2008, and at that time the influence of the AARP votes will carry less weight than the twenty something vote carries today. Every potential voter will have a stick in the fire.
Clearly we DO need a third party. But what kind? What program? We could have one that takes us in entirely the wrong direction. The Nazi party pretended to be a socialist party, but it was far from it--it was the mailed fist of the German monopolies, with a deceptive glove on.

Friedman does not want the same type I do. He wants a Perot who is "emotionally stable". He also wants "...someone who will tell the truth: The only way Americans are ever going to enjoy relatively cheap gasoline again is if we raise the price now with a gasoline tax-- and fix it at that higher level for several years -- so investors know that it is not coming down..." But we know that's not the truth.

I will not hide my enthusiasm for what's happening in Latin America. Leaders are emerging there who put the needs of the people ahead of the needs of investors, and the very, very wealthy in particular. They will make zillions of mistakes, but at least they are working in that direction. There is hope they will not repeat the mistakes of the SU and China in wiping out the oppostion and abolishing democracy. Cuba has been forced to experiment with doing a lot with a little -- which is very relevant to what we will all face. Chavez has openly acknowledged peak oil.

The FT, in an article the other day, referred to Evo Morales' gov't'(Bolivia) intolerance for even a whiff of corruption. And another article in FT a week or two ago, on the problems the Cuban gov't were having combatting mid-level theft and corruption, had a foreign banker saying that the top level appeared to be squeaky clean.

I know some will come back on democracy in Cuba. But bear in mind this: Cuba has been invaded, and has had multiple assassination attempts against its leaders. Compare this to what has happened to liberty HERE with NO plausible threat whatsoever. In any case, Chavez seems to be avoiding the Cuban model in this respect -- the opposition still has rights and functions openly. And I hope that stays true. The very worst thing one can do is to destroy your enemies, for then you become your own.

Perhaps what we need to do is redraw the map -- and declare ourselves a Latin American country? :) Anyway, something in that direction is what we need. But it will be very hard to get in the short run. We are far more likely to get something like what Friedman wants. And what Friedman wants is something that will bring people back in to the fold. But a party that will not renounce empire and renounce aggression against the rest of the world is not going to help -- it will hurt -- that is not a fold we should be brought back into.

Of course, I have to admit that torture is practiced in Cuba -- Guantanamo.
Amen, brother.
I am quite ambivalent to the idea of a steeply increased gas tax.

Sure, it will depress demand, but the consensus seems to be that the gasoline supply/demand relationship is rather inelastic, so unless the gas tax is raised to some ruinous level, it's effect will probably be relatively minor. Gasoline is going to get expensive enough without the government making it even more so.

But my basic objection is that it will result in even more money going to the federal government. True, there are various schemes to compensate for the gas tax by lowering other taxes, by giving tax rebates or credits, etc., but I seriously doubt if they will balance out the increased money that will be drained from the average American.

Then we have various talk that the gas tax can be used to make further investments in alternative energy and infrastructure development.  I don't believe any of it. Once Congress gets their hands on the extra money from the gas tax, it will find an infinite number of creative ways to disburse pork to their chums back home.  In the end, it will be spent on everything but energy.

I'm not smart enough to know what the answer is, but my guiding principle is that the less money the federal government has to play with, the less mischief it can cause.

If a third party of the kind Friedman has in mind were to get a foothold in American politics, the Republicans would control Congress for the next generation. That's just a fact, folks. Don't even wish for it.
What 3rd parties have succeeded at is changing the debate on particular issues. Perot's focus on the national debt in '92 influenced Clinton to push for the tax increase on the rich which resulted in the largest budget surpluses in history 5 years later. It turned the Dems into the party of fiscal responsibility.
If another billionaire steps forward and honestly explains why fuel will never be cheap again then a future president will push through an energy transition plan that will work. At least until the other party regains power.
A novel approach a billionaire could take would be to finance 3rd party congressional candidates. A dozen 3rd party congressmen or 4-6 3rd party senators could leave both the GOP and Dems without a majority. The Sane Energy party would hold the balance of power.
Talked it over with the missus and we nominate Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico and former Secretary of Energy.
3rd party?  You've got to be kidding - we're rapidly heading for one party.  For all intents and purposes, the only difference between the parties now is in terms of rhetoric and image.  There's precious little substance behind them at all, but what there is almost indistinguishable - at least from way over here where the center used to be.