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The New York Times has a good opinion piece about what’s really driving gas prices these days. The Republicans and President Bush would like us all to think that it’s because we don’t have enough domestic oil drilling while the Democrats would like us to think it’s the “evil” oil speculators, or the “evil” oil companies, but the reality is that it’s basically a case of supply and demand. With regards to the “evil” oil speculators the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury and Energy Departments all concluded that “speculative trades in oil contracts had little to no effect on the rise in prices over the last five years.” (“Gas Price Follies“, The New York Times, July 28, 2008 ) Additionally, additional oil drilling, as I have noted in the past will do nothing for the price of gas at the pump in the short or even near term. The New York Times editorial notes that “Republicans should know that allowing more offshore drilling might marginally trim oil prices — in about a decade (emphasis added) — while sacrificing important environmental protections.” (“Gas Price Follies“, The New York Times, July 28, 2008 )

The fact is that we need to switch to alternative, renewable, energy and as we move in that direction we need to focus on conservation. You know conservation…that thing that Vice President Dick Cheney said “may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” Well, Mr. Vice President, it looks like you were wrong on that one. And the editors of the New York Times agree with me: “Americans must burn less oil and find alternative sources of energy that do far less damage to the environment.” (“Gas Price Follies“, The New York Times, July 28, 2008 )

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Tom Friedman’s most recent op-ed brought to mind the efforts of T. Boone Pickens in Texas and Shai Agassi in Tel-Aviv to break America’s and Israel’s dependence on oil. And their both doing it through renewable energy. I’ve already written about T. Boone Pickens efforts with wind energy in West Texas. Shai Agassi, however, is taking a different tack. He’s doing it by building a fleet of electric vehicles – in cooperation with the French firm Renault. In addition to the vehicles, he’s looking to build a network of recharging stations all around Israel so that you just subscribe to his service — kind of like how you do with your cell phone now — and you have unlimited charges. To power this system Agassi is contracting for 2 gigawatts of solar energy from Israeli power companies! There’s an old joke about how God gave the Jews the only piece of land in the Middle East without oil underneath it. But in fact the “oil” of Israel is its brain trust, talent, and vast supply of sunshine in the desert!

I applaud the efforts of men and women like T. Boone Pickens and Shai Agassi who are helping to lead the Green Revolution — even if Mr. Pickens has some not so nice aspects to him he’s doing the right thing here. As he told Tom Friedman, he was “tired of waiting for Washington to produce a serious energy plan.” (Texas to Tel-Aviv, Tom Friedman, New York Times, July 27, 2008 ) Friedman continues by noting Pickens belives that unless ‘“Congress adopts clear, predictable policies” — with long-term tax incentives and infrastructure — so thousands of investors can jump into clean power, we’ll never get the scale we need to break our addiction.’ (Texas to Tel-Aviv, Tom Friedman, New York Times, July 27, 2008 )

Like Tom Friedman, I wonder to myself what a shame we don’t have a Congress and a President who are able to mobilize more people like T. Boone Pickens and Shai Agassi to lead us off the OPEC needle and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions instead of wasting their time with cockamamie schemes like gas tax reduction, or releasing the oil in the strategic petroleum reserve or promoting more off-shore oil drilling.

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