At the moment, it is not clear – despite the impetus of the public’s outrage – that partisans on either side of the aisle will be able to muster sufficient majorities to advance their energy gambits. All other things being equal, they seem content to blame the other for inaction and hope that the voters respond in a way that doesn’t simply amount literally to a pox on both their houses.
Fortunately, it appears that this week may also produce an alternative initiative that 1) could make a practical and meaningful difference on the price of gasoline in the relatively near-term and 2) enjoy broad bipartisan support.
Tuesday, Democratic Senators Joe Lieberman and Ken Salazar will join Republican Senators Susan Collins and Sam Brownback in introducing the “Open Fuel Standard Act of 2008.” This legislation would put into law a promise made repeatedly by America’s car manufacturers: to make half their new cars Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) by 2012. These are cars that can use gasoline, alcohols (ethanol or methanol from whatever source) or some combination. It would require foreign competitors to do the same, then up that percentage to 80% by 2015. Companion bipartisan legislation is expected shortly to be put in play in the House of Representatives.
Senators Lieberman and Collins, the chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will precede a midday press conference unveiling their legislation by holding a hearing on the energy crisis and what might be done about it. While much of the attention will likely be focused on the testimony offered by the estimable T. Boone Pickens – who is currently spending tens of millions of dollars promoting the use of wind power to generate electricity and natural gas to power automobiles, Senators and the public alike would be well-advised to listen attentively to the remarks of another witness: Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.
Together with his colleague, Anne Korin, Dr. Luft co-founded the Set America Free Coalition – an extraordinarily broadly based pick-up team of national security experts, energy specialists, environmental groups, scientists, academics, business leaders and other activists. The Coalition has been the driving force behind a blueprint (www.SetAmericaFree.org) for energy security. At the moment, its highest priority is the adoption of an Open Fuel Standard.
Among many riveting facts in Dr. Luft’s testimony – including his documentation of the insidious role the Saudi-led oil cartel, OPEC, is playing in restricting supply and manipulating prices in a manner consistent with the sort of economic warfare against the West promised a decade ago by Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden – is this fact: Unless an Open Fuel Standard is adopted swiftly, during the tenure of a Senator elected in 2008, over 100 million new cars will be introduced onto America’s highways the bulk of which can be powered only by gasoline. Given that these cars will be around, on average, for about 17 years, such an arrangement would mean perpetuating the United States’ present vulnerability to OPEC’s strategically dangerous and economically ruinous extortion for nearly two decades to come.
The time has come to do something meaningful about America’s energy freedom. Adopt the Open Fuel Standard. Accept no substitutes.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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