I’ve got to admit I’ve been looking for something major to disagree with about the thrust of this Thomas Friedman column, but I’m having a lot of trouble. Friedman argues the best thing that Americans can do for the Iranian opposition is reduce consumption of foreign oil. Without the oil revenues on which the Iranian regime relies, social unrest will continue to foment until it can be contained no longer and without the considerable leverage oil profits provide, Iran will be forced into bargaining from lower ground on other issues like the nuclear program. The only part where I think Friedman deviates a bit is when he offers this as a possible policy response:
Mr. Obama has already started some excellent energy-saving initiatives. But we need more. Imposing an immediate “Freedom Tax” of $1 a gallon on gasoline — with rebates to the poor and elderly — would be a triple positive: It would stimulate more investment in renewable energy now; it would stimulate more consumer demand for the energy-efficient vehicles that the reborn General Motors and Chrysler are supposed to make; and, it would reduce our oil imports in a way that would surely affect the global price and weaken every petro-dictator.
An interesting idea, but similarly, a Waxman-Markey bill that isn’t considerably watered down would have a similar effect and also have the benefit of correctly situating the oil problem within the broader context of staving catastrophic climate change. I’m generally not a huge fan of the “energy security” argument for preventing climate change as it sort of misses the point, but I suppose the results of any such legislation matter more than how they are sold. As such, it seems now would be a good time to call out the bombastic Right on their bellicose rhetoric towards Iran and try and build support for climate legislation with teeth while the opportunity exists.