[Editor’s note: This is the seventh piece in our series on the oil tax debate. Vinod Khosla is leading the charge for the “pro” side. Here is his latest.]
Part I talked about why gas prices won’t go up. Part II talked about how and why prices for gasoline will decline. I discussed unfair, maybe unethical if not illegal tactics in Part III. What about the costs to society? Health costs, defense costs, foreign policy costs, and other costs? That is Part IV.
There are benefits to be had from freedom from the oilie stranglehold.
Ninety percent of Californians live in areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards. San Joaquin valley is mostly farm and rural areas and yet 1 in 5 children have asthma. The American Lung Association is supporting Prop 87 because the use of gasoline causes asthma and lung disease. Did you know that volatile organics can constitute as much as 50% of the gasoline? President Bush’s (Sr.) former White House counsel Boyden Gray, has written extensively about the dangers of these volatile organics in the Texas Law Review. He among many other Republicans support the switch to alternative fuels like ethanol.
The American Cancer Society lists benzene’s (from gasoline) link to leukemia and other cancers on its website as a Group I carcinogen (Carcinogenic to Humans) . Two components of gasoline, benzene & butadiene top the list of the most dangerous air borne carcinogens by the EPA. The top six polluted counties in the country are in California • Riverside, San Bernadine, Los Angles, Tulare, Kern, Fresno. It is difficult to asses the healthcare cost of gasoline and oil consumption but it sure runs into the tens of billions of dollars. And do the oil companies get to pay for this out of their hundreds of billions in profits? No. Consumers get to pay hostage prices for oil and also get to pay for the health care costs, lost wages from illness and with real lifestyle damage.
But do the oilies care? Or does the damage stop here? When lead was phased out as an octane booster for gasoline the oil companies had a choice of a fuel oxygenate. They picked MTBE and have continued to use it despite it polluting our groundwater. They could have picked ethanol, a safe additive that people have been drinking for pleasure for thousands of years. But the oil companies could manufacture MTBE but they did not make as much money on ethanol. Guess what they picked as an additive? Groundwater pollution and consumer health be damned? What were they thinking? Now that they are facing significant liabilities from the ground water pollution with MTBE they are trying to limit it’s use and trying to influence peddle their way out of this liability . They are attempting to promote legislation to exempt or shield them from this liability.
But the costs of oil use don’t stop at health. As ex-Director of the CIA, Jim Woolsey (and a big supporter of alternative fuels like ethanol) likes to say, we are financing both sides of the war on terror. We send billions to the mid-east and it goes to fund terrorists. Almost a billion dollars a day goes to the murky mid-east, terrorists, oil sheiks, Iran’s nuclear program (they have almost no other viable business to fund its activities), Iraq (not counting the hundreds of billions we have spent on the war).
In a recent report by the non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations states that “energy dependence is undercutting US foreign policy”. It goes on “Russia, Iran, Venezuela are able to leverage energy to pursue their geopolitical objectives” and makes clear that we “cannot drill our way out of this problem” and that “biofuels have significant potential”. US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar calls for dramatic and immediate action to address U.S. energy vulnerability because of six threats from energy dependence. According to him any of the six could be a source of catastrophe for the United States and the world. He goes on to say that our failure to act will be all the more unconscionable given that success would bring not only relief from the geopolitical threats of energy-rich regimes, but also restorative economic benefit.
Do you think the oil interests are in a hurry to create alternatives to the fuels or help with efficiency improvements to reduce gasoline consumption? We need Prop 87 to do that.
Do you believe Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Senator Feinstein and Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, (all unpaid)? Or do you believe the oil companies and their “bought endorsers”?”
As Tom Freidman says: “Passage of Prop 87 would be huge”. Vote Yes on 87!