Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oil Prices And Dictatorships

Drive a Prius, save the world.

Forget the tree-hugging aspect of higher MPG, CAFE standards and hybrid cars.  Energy efficiency, especially energy efficiency in petroleum, means less money for dictators.  Some of those dictators are nominally our friends (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, I guess), but many are not (Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, I guess).

The fracking expansion is very controversial and rightfully so.  Its environmental impact is unknown and companies seem to be pretty set on keeping it that way.

But the combination of increased fuel efficiency and expanded domestic production is having political and economic effects beyond the environmental effects.

Dictatorships almost uniformly rely on either coercion or co-optation (or a combination of the two).  And co-optation is almost always accompanied by a resource based economy that the state can control easier than an industrial or service based economy.  Having the bulk of a nation's wealthy sluicing through a pipeline makes it easier for a dictator to siphon off cash that can be distributed to both cronies and the people at large.  It negates the need of going to the people for taxes in order to fund basic necessities.  No taxation, without representation.  It's more than a bumpersticker, it's a principle behind most representative governments.

It would be nice, in a world of coal rolling and Humvees, if we could "sell" fuel efficiency not merely as an environmental good - since some assholes are bound and determined to go out of their way to "Nuke the Whales" - but as a way to combat tyranny around the world.

Hey, Dudebro!  Your SUV is empowering Ayatollah Khamenei.  Just saying.

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