An occasionally contentious debate on energy policy this morning at the National Review summit featured former CIA Director James Woolsey versus Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute on this question: “Resolved: The Federal Government Should Act to Reduce America’s Dependence on Foreign Oil.”
Woolsey, who chairs the Advisory Committee of the Clean Fuels Foundation, is an advocate of government mandates to encourage use of hybrid gasoline-electric cars, a form of flex-fuel vehicles. This morning he reprised arguments he made on their behalf in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, saying that increased U.S. energy independence could undermine the profits that empower Islamic radicals in the Middle East.
As Taylor’s Cato biography states, “As a senior fellow, Jerry Taylor challenges the “market failure” critique of free markets as they pertain to energy policy and environmental protection.” He sharply argued that the government does a lousy job in replacing the wisdom of the market, a libertarian point of view he applies consistently throughout his economic work. (For example, see this piece in the National Review rebutting the value of subsidies in the oil industry.)
Good debate, although a bit easy to caricature.
But the debate was well worth having, the kind of discussion the public would be well served by having Congress undertake, as well. Congrats and thanks to the National Review Institute, Woolsey and Taylor for illuminating basic principles and real-world consequences of government’s involvement in energy policy.
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