Farm-raised fix 

In recent years, it has been the conservatives proposing radical ideas that serve their ideology at the expense of the average American. From the Medicare prescription drug reform to the privatization of Social Security to the massive tax cuts that have plunged the nation deeper into debt, common-sense realities are ignored for the sake of an abstract agenda.

But now some progressives are pushing their own ill-considered solution to our dependence on foreign oil: a significant increase in the tax on gasoline.

“Only if the total price of gasoline is brought into the $3.50-to-$4-per-gallon range — and kept there — will large numbers of Americans demand plug-in hybrid cars that run on biofuels like ethanol,” wrote Thomas Friedman in his New York Times column last week. “When large numbers of Americans do that, U.S. automakers will move quickly down the innovation curve.”

Friedman’s intentions are admirable, because we know that our absolute reliance on petroleum for our energy needs has three debilitating effects. First, it weakens our hand in diplomatic relations with countries that supply us with oil. With some of those countries strategically connected with what has become our biggest national security concern, we cannot continue to undermine ourselves in this way.

Second, the lack of energy autonomy perches the U.S. economy on a single precarious pillar. If the supply of oil is disrupted, the entire system will be affected, with devastating results.

Finally, fossil fuel consumption is having serious effects on the environment, as much as some people would like to deny it. We pay for this in the form of degraded natural resources, public health costs and the consequences of climate change.

But Friedman’s policy prescription doesn’t take the real world into account. The immediate impact of a drastic gas tax hike in Arkansas, for instance, would be catastrophic to average citizens. What would be their short-term options?

There is barely any viable public transportation in the state, so giving up our cars is not a realistic possibility. And even if everyone could afford to quickly modify or trade in their vehicles to use biofuels (which is a pipe dream), how would the automobile manufacturers and parts suppliers meet the production demands? And where would all of the biofuel suddenly come from?

In reality, most Arkansans would have to pay for the more expensive gas and cut back on other essentials (like food and home heating), just as some have to do in order to afford prescription drugs under the latest clumsy Medicare changes.

However, there is a better way to approach the problem, and it happens to make a whole lot of sense for Arkansas.

Instead of creating artificial demand through hardship, our state and federal governments can encourage a stable transition to biofuels through tax credits to consumers, car manufacturers, biofuel producers and energy distributors.

After all, state and federal tax credits are what jump-started the biofuel industry in Arkansas in the first place. A biodiesel incentive passed by the Arkansas legislature less than a year ago, combined with a federal program that went into effect last year, led directly to the opening of the first major biodiesel production facility in the state, which started operations this week.

Called Patriot Biofuels, it actually creates a fuel entirely from soybeans that will run a standard diesel engine. “We’re not even calling ourselves an alternative fuel,” said Tommy Foltz, the president of the company. “We make diesel, we just don’t make it out of petroleum.”

The tax credits now allow Foltz’s operation to sell its fuel at a price comparable to regular diesel. Knowing that, I eventually would like to switch to a car that ran on biodiesel, if I could afford it. That’s where the consumer tax credits come into play, giving all of us a financial incentive to make the change for the good of our country. Add a tax credit for the automakers to meet the new consumer demand for biofuel vehicles, and the cycle begins again as the biofuel makers ramp up production.

If this caught on, just imagine what it would mean for our state’s agricultural community, which is staring at the abyss as subsidies and import tariffs are cut. A native food supply is just as important as a domestic energy supply, for similar economic and national security reasons, and the biofuel market could ensure that Arkansas farmers stay in business.

What a wonderful thing it could be to use our abundant land to literally grow our own energy and agricultural self-sufficiency, and reduce carbon emissions in the process.

It also potentially would bring the right-wing anti-taxers and the left-wing enviros together on common ground — in this case, the real world.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Police identify officer in shooting, say he fired to prevent shooting

    The Little Rock Police Department said today that Officer Dennis Hutchins had shot Roy Richards, 46, Monday night because he feared Richards was about to shoot his uncle, with whom he'd been arguing.
    • Oct 26, 2016
  • Ted Suhl loses bid for new trial; faces stiff government sentence recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
    • Oct 26, 2016
  • More »

More by Warwick Sabin

  • Helena's disappearing buildings

    Preservationists hope to slow demolitions.
    • Mar 22, 2007
  • Trailers headed to Dumas

    Gov. Mike Beebe issued the following statement earlier today: Although this decision by FEMA to deny emergency funds to Desha County defies common sense, Arkansas will take care of its own people.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • Youth Ranch robbed, vandalized

    According to a press release we just received: The Donald W. Reynolds Campus of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches (The Ranch) located near Fort Smith was vandalized overnight Thursday.  Items stolen during the break-in included all of the children’s saddles, food, tools and supplies from The Ranch’s carpentry shop and all equipment from its auto shop.  An investigation is underway with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Welfare for the wealthy: More reasons to VOTE NO on ISSUE 3

    Voices on the left and right are lifted against Issue 3, the corporate welfare amendment to send tax money to private business and corporate lobbyists.
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said

Latest in Warwick Sabin

  • Trickle-up theory

    Through thick and thin, there has always been one group of dedicated Americans whose support for President George W. Bush has been unwavering: The wealthy.
    • Mar 8, 2007
  • Time to go

    Tough questions face us in Iraq and it's time to confront them directly.
    • Mar 1, 2007
  • Plugged in

    One reason why the South remained solidly Democratic during the mid-20th century was the enduring gratitude to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought electricity to the poor, rural parts of the region. According to one historical account, “Althou
    • Feb 22, 2007
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.
  • The end is near

    Practically speaking, it doesn't really matter if Donald Trump accepts the results of the November election.
  • The politics of opportunity

    Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The big loser

    • Investigator, you are none of those things, but simply a serial ranter. At this you…

    • on October 26, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • If they really wanted to knockout the Clinton's, they would have done so with guilty…

    • on October 26, 2016
  • Re: Trumped in Arkansas

    • What a funny article, I hope sarcasm was your intent! First, since this was written…

    • on October 23, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation