Will the US dinosaurs ever learn?

The dinosaurs are back……

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The new “green team” appointed by president-elect Barack Obama might, after all, turn out to be a dream team for the US chemicals industry. This is despite what some of the old disonaurs within the industry seem to think.

A US energy policy needs to place a genuine long-term cost on gasoline, thereby encouraging, belatedly, the kind of innovation that might just save the domestic auto industry and provide a huge boost to chemicals. Higher gasoline taxes need not be political suicide if they are accompanied by explanations of potential tax cuts, or even credits, for energy-positive steps such as, for example, installing solar panels.

Greater conservation – one that’s not just driven by the economic crisis – might reduce a huge defence bill that’s created global political instability, increased terrorism and created an untold number of deaths and misery for millions. A lower defence bill would mean huge tax savings.

It would be good if some of those in the oil and gas industry could move away from their long-term obsession with drilling. The obsession reached it’s trivial low-point with Sarah Palin’s campaign slogan, “Drill bay,drill”.

Drilling alone will do little to reduce the US dependence on imported oil unless it goes along with greater conservation.

And anyway, you can make a strong argument that wrecking the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge will make very little long term difference to US energy vulnerablity, while creating a legacy of the loss of yet another beautiful wilderness for future generations.

There also needs to be a gradual movement away from conventional hydrocarbons to unconventional ones (provided the environnmental impact can be neutralised through heavy investment in carbon capture and storage, which will probably need big initial government backing to get the economics off the ground ) and to renewables.

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