I am writing this for a couple of reasons. One, it is an opportunity to test the new “Press This” feature I have added to my browser tools, which allows me to quickly post something I come across that I find worthwhile. Two, I found the item below worthwhile.
It comes from James Taranto of the WSJ and his daily OpinionJournal feature “Best of the Web”. While I cannot say that I always agree with Mr. Taranto, I can say that I think he is remarkably insightful and has a sharp eye for the illogical.
The feature below highlights an oddity from a Thomas Friedman NYT opinion piece (Mr. Friedman’s opinions being a frequent target of Mr. Taranto’s eye for the problematic). While I am not saying that a better argument could not be made for Mr. Friedman’s position I do agree with Mr. Taranto that the NYT columnist undercuts his own position with his argument and leaves you shaking your head.
[For those who would like the short version: (1) a canard is “a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor” (from Dictionary.com); (2) Mr. Friedman claims in his piece that Big Oil’s statements about the fact that alternative energy sources are not yet cost effective is a canard, (3) Mr. Friedman spends most of the rest of his piece refuting his own claim. Huh?]
Again, I am not arguing that alternative energy should not be pursued, nor am I expressing an opinion here about the role that the government should take. But I do appreciate a display of poor logic in the NYT when I see it and methinks this a prime example. Mr. Taranto hit the nail right on the head.
The relevant portion of today’s Best of the Web feature is given below. A link to the entire Best of the Web site for today is provided after it. (Let the surfer beware — I don’t control, nor am I responsible for, any content beyond these four… uh… walls. Or whatever.)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
From “Best of the Web”, Thursday, August 14, 2008
“One of the biggest canards peddled by Big Oil is that, ‘Sure, we’ll need wind and solar energy, but it’s just not cost effective yet.’ They’ve been saying that for 30 years.” So proclaims New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Bizarrely, he tells us this right after informing us that the solar industry can’t survive without subsidies:
In the solar industry today there is a rush to finish any project that would be up and running by Dec. 31–when the [tax] credits expire–and most everything beyond that is now on hold. Consider the Solana concentrated solar power plant, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix in McCain’s home state. It is the biggest proposed concentrating solar energy project ever. The farsighted local utility is ready to buy its power.
But because of the Senate’s refusal to extend the solar tax credits, “we cannot get our bank financing,” said Fred Morse, a senior adviser for the American operations of Abengoa Solar, which is building the project. “Without the credits, the numbers don’t work.” Some 2,000 construction jobs are on hold.
Wait, it gets even better. Friedman fantasizes about a solution to the energy problem that “will take more than a Manhattan Project”:
It will require a fundamental reshaping by government of the prices and regulations and research-and-development budgets that shape the energy market. Without taxing fossil fuels so they become more expensive and giving subsidies to renewable fuels so they become more competitive–and changing regulations so more people and companies have an interest in energy efficiency–we will not get innovation in clean power at the scale we need.
Such a massive exercise of government control over the economy is “cost effective” only in the sense that ignorance is strength and slavery is freedom.