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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Flex-fuels roundup

There's a good deal more on the flex-fuels mandate debate at NRO's Planet Gore. See here, here, here, and here. In the latter post, Robert Zubrin writes "So it comes down to this: Who do you want to win, us or them?" ("Them" being the Islamists.)

I think what it really comes down to is whether the mandate would do any good, strategically or environmentally. It's hard to see how it would. Alcohol fuels would remain uncompetitive in terms of price (as well as carrying their own environmental problems), as discussed by Jerry Taylor here. I expressed my doubts in various posts, such as here and here.

Even with the mandate in place, alcohols would only have a chance at competing if you did something to keep gas prices high--such as an oil import fee, a gas tax, or a carbon tax. As I've pointed out repeatedly, I favor a carbon tax. But if you impose a carbon tax, what would be added by having the flex-fuels mandate? Basically, nothing. If alcohol still can't compete post-tax, the mandate won't enable it to do so.

Moreover, a carbon tax has the virtue of not requiring government to pick winners, other than "anything but carbon." It would let electric and hybrid technologies that may be economically and environmentally superior to alcohol fuels compete on a level (non-carbon) playing field.

UPDATE: Fixed spelling of Zubrin.

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