Obama’s Alternative-Fuel Plan Deserves Support

Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012 04:13 PM

By Christopher Ruddy

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I’ll call it “Obama’s good deed.”

The president earlier this month announced his support for a $4.7 billion initiative to promote the use of alternative-fuel vehicles, a move designed to improve national security by reducing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.

The plan, announced at a truck manufacturing plant in North Carolina, will distribute about $1 billion in funds among 10 to 15 cities or towns to invest in advanced clean-fuel vehicles, including those that run on electricity, biofuels, and natural gas.

Another $3.7 billion will go to tax credits for purchasers of alternatively fueled cars, as well as a new tax credit for trucks powered by alternative fuels. Obama’s proposal will expand the current credit for buying electric vehicles and support development of natural gas refueling “corridors” that would enable natural-gas-powered trucks to move goods.

Politically, I believe the Obama plan may be a sign that he is finally taking a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook as president and moving to the center, promoting bipartisan ideas that can get our economy moving again while promoting the nation’s security.

Most Republicans and Democrats agree that the country needs to reduce oil imports, and offering tax incentives to individuals and private businesses is an excellent strategy for accomplishing that worthy goal.

Obama’s plan drew immediate praise from members of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE at www.secureenergy.org), a group I support that has strongly promoted diversifying the nation’s fuel sources in the transportation sector, particularly through the adoption of electric vehicles, and has worked closely with the White House on the substance of Obama’s proposal.

SAFE’s President and CEO Robbie Diamond said President Obama’s initiative is an “important development in the debate regarding the nation’s energy security,” and stressed that the bipartisan plan is backed by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

I applaud Obama as well.

Granted, it’s an election year and there is much point-scoring taking place on both sides of the aisle. Still, we should never forget the interests of the country take priority over partisan bickering.

SAFE’s advisory leadership boards, led by Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, and former Marine Commandant Gen. P.X. Kelley, as well as former Adm. Dennis Blair, who had served as President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, demonstrate how broadly this issue is backed across the political spectrum.

Energy independence is clearly a priority national interest. On Newsmax I have written repeatedly that the country’s security has been imperiled by the West’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Recently, I wrote an Op-Ed calling on car manufacturers to produce flex-fuel ready vehicles that would allow drivers to easily change the type of fuel their engines use, from gasoline to other types of fuels such as methanol or ethanol. (See "The Milk Man’s Lesson: Car Choice Can Work.")

Robert McFarlane, who as Ronald Reagan’s national security was a key architect in winning the Cold War, echoed these sentiments in a recent Wall Street Journal piece, saying a flex-fuel mandate can help defeat the energy crisis.

This is not just an economic issue as we see gasoline prices skyrocket, it’s also a national security one.

Today, trillions of America’s dollars and the dollars of our allies have been flowing to OPEC states and other oil-supplying nations — many of whom are not our friends.

Meanwhile, America’s armed forces have been forced to shoulder the enormous burden of protecting oil supply lines and infrastructure, often at great cost in blood and treasure.

Currently, the United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil a day, and about 57 percent of that comes from overseas.

Oil importation results in the transfer of wealth in the amount of some $380 billion a year, and gasoline prices have been on the rise.

It’s important to remember that even if we expand oil drilling in the United States, oil costs may not drop if overall global demand increases. And our allies in Western Europe and Japan, with whom we are critically interdependent, are almost totally dependent on foreign oil.

America should take the lead in dramatically lowering our use of petroleum as the main fuel of commerce, and the Obama plan is a good start.

Again, it’s important to emphasize the bipartisan support alternative-fuel proposals have received. Electric vehicle legislation similar to Obama’s plan was introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; last year and has received support from both sides of the aisle. And Obama’s alternative fuel proposal is not the only recent example of the president moving toward the “Clinton” center.

When House Republicans just recently unveiled a package of measures they said will help small businesses raise capital and create jobs, the White House said it was encouraged by the GOP action and Democrats in Congress also voiced support.

White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said the president was "encouraged to see that there is common ground between his approach and what [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor outlined."

Obama should have acted sooner to deal with the energy crisis in a bipartisan fashion and break oil’s stranglehold on the nation, that is true. But his new proposal deserves support.

I won’t hesitate to criticize the president when he is wrong, but I won’t hesitate to applaud him when he’s right.

The fact is, there is no Democratic or Republican plan to deal with the energy crisis, only a national plan that should draw the backing of both parties. And President Obama’s alternative-fuel proposal, commendably, appears to be leading the nation in that direction.


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