Jeff Jacoby strikes… out… again.

Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist who writes for the Boston Globe and pretends that he’s a smart guy, continues his crusade against science and reason with a column today praising the benefits of cheap gasoline.

He calls the environmentalists’ call for higher gas prices, as a way to reduce the use of gasoline and cut emissions of greenhouse gasses, a minority view. Which it may well be. It may also well be a useful tool in the war to save civilization.

Jacoby has written before that he doesn’t believe global warming has anything to do with human activities, and cites selective sources who agree with him without noting that they are at best a tiny number of people, and none with credibility among serious climate scientists.

But, to be perfectly clear, here’s the last four graphs of his column.

Most Americans don’t regard automobiles as a blight and don’t blame human activity for global warming, so it goes without saying that most of them don’t want fuel prices to rise. For those who do believe that cars are a curse and climate change is caused by people, however, it makes perfect sense to call for more expensive gasoline.

Raise the price of something high enough and you invariably lower the demand for it. That’s why last year’s sharp spike in gas prices resulted in fewer cars on the highways and a plunge in miles driven. If your goal is fewer SUVs, less solo driving, and lower carbon-dioxide emissions, inflicting European-level gasoline prices on American motorists is a pretty good strategy. Conversely, it is hypocritical – or at least illogical – "to say you care deeply about global warming and advocate for the price of gas to go down," as AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson told Newsweek last year. "Those are mutually exclusive concepts."

And yet advocating for the price of gas to go down is essentially what environmentalists are doing when they clamor for higher-mileage cars. All other things being equal, raising fuel efficiency lowers the cost of driving. As Secretary Chu correctly told the House committee last week, "encouraging fuel-efficient cars" is one means of "reducing the price of transportation." But cheaper driving means more driving, and more driving means more energy use, more cars on the road, more demand for highways, more drilling for oil – all the things environmentalists abhor.

If greens and global-warmists really want the US automotive fleet to use less energy, they should clamor for cars that get lower mileage. Crazy, you say? Surely no crazier than $8-a-gallon gas.

Somehow Jacoby trips over his logic, or failure thereof. Again. It’s a trick he employs often.

Take a car that gets twenty miles a gallon. Put one gallon in it. It will go twenty miles and cost two dollars at today’s gas price.

Now wave your magic Harry Potter Wonder Wand and make the same car twice as efficient. It will now run forty miles on one gallon of gas for the same two dollars. Yes, the cost of driving is lower – the cost of gas per mile.

What that car won’t do is increase the loading rate of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, even though you drive it twice as far, all else being equal. It will still use one gallon of gas, for forty miles, and put a gallon’s equivalent of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It won’t reduce emissions but it will do only half the damage for twenty miles of use that Jacoby’s low mileage favorite would. Hardly something that environmentalists would abhor.

Nor does Jacoby offer any proof that people will drive twice as far just because they can. Maybe they’ll only drive ten extra miles instead of the full twenty available, thus reducing emissions for that particular gallon of gas.

But Jacoby wants us to ignore a planetary crisis and keep building gas hogs in America. Meanwhile, Europe builds cars that routinely get forty to fifty miles a gallon while Jacoby apparently wants to pamper an American industry that creates a market for big, inefficient cars and then panders to it.

Perhaps the question we need to put to Mr. Jacoby is ‘When will you stop taking payments from Exxon to do their dirty work?’

But The Lion suspects that Jacoby just isn’t smart enough to milk Exxon and its friends, and is doing their deadly propaganda work for free.

The Lion hopes that Jacoby has taught his children to swim. They’ll need to be able to swim when Boston is under ten or twenty feet of water, quite possibly by the end of the century, if not decades sooner. And they’ll need good lungs too, to curse the blindness and stupidity of their father.

But perhaps The Lion judges Jacoby too harshly. He bills today’s effort as the first of two columns. Maybe the second column will… On the other hand, given what he’s put out there before on all sorts of matters, The Lion doubts that it is possible to judge Jacoby too harshly.


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