Reason’s Bailey on Presidents and Oil

In an op-ed in today’s The Wall Street Journal, Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey details the long list of failed presidential plans that were supposed to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil. From Richard Nixon’s use of taxpayer money to develop “an unconventionally powered, virtually pollution-free automobile within five years” to Gerald Ford’s Energy Policy and Conservation Act to Jimmy Carter’s creation of the U.S. Department of Energy…and the list goes on… Bailey writes:

“In May 2001, after California experienced a series of rolling blackouts, Dick Cheney’s national energy task force starkly declared: ‘America in the year 2001 faces the most serious energy shortage since the oil embargoes of the 1970s.’ In his 2003 State of the Union message, President Bush pledged ‘to promote energy independence for our country.’ He also announced his $1.2 billion FreedomCAR proposal, to develop hydrogen-fueled vehicles. But despite these bold proclamations, the only way we’ve ever cut back on imported oil is in response to higher prices. World oil prices peaked in real terms in 1980 at about $90 per barrel. In 1977, U.S. imports were 6.6 million barrels per day. By 1985, imports had been cut in half to 3.2 million barrels. Why? Simple economics: Higher prices boosted domestic production and reduced consumption. And despite more than 30 years of government-sponsored initiatives only about a half-million alternative fuel vehicles roam America’s highways, and none are wholly electric or hydrogen powered. Today’s higher prices will do far more to free us from dependence on foreign oil imports and spur energy technology innovation than any federal program ever will — even a so-called Advanced Energy Initiative.”

Full Column Here