I’m a huge fan of Fareed Zakaria, who’s both one of the most insightful political commentators around and one of the best repeat guests on the Daily Show. I don’t find his column on hybrid cars to be his best work, but it does fall within this blog’s purview, so I’m gonna link it anyway. Basically, Zakaria says that we could, with concerted effort, exceed Kyoto CO2 emissions targets and break our dependence on foreign oil purely through hybrids (not today’s hybrids, of course, but future plug-in hybrids that also accept biofuels). Pretty bold, and also, I suspect, a little overly optimistic. Nonetheless, this passage is worth quoting at length:

If things are already moving, why does the government need to do anything? Because this is not a pure free market. Large companies — in the oil and automotive industry — have vested interests in not changing much. There are transition costs — gas stations will need to be fitted to pump methanol and ethanol (at a cost of $20,000 to $60,000 per station). New technologies will empower new industries, few of which have lobbies in Washington.

Besides, the idea that the government should have nothing to do with this problem is bizarre. It was military funding and spending that produced much of the technology that makes hybrids possible. (The military is actually leading the hybrid trend. All new naval surface ships are now electric-powered, as are big diesel locomotives and mining trucks.) And the West’s reliance on foreign oil is not cost-free. [Energy security advocate Gal] Luft estimates that a government plan that could accelerate the move to a hybrid transport system would cost $12 billion dollars. That is what we spend in Iraq in about three months.

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