Jonathan Chait

Lamar Alexander Somewhat Less Incoherent Than I Suspected

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Last Friday I offered a rather condescending reply to Lamar Alexander's Wall Street Journal op-ed on climate change. A member of his staff has convinced me that Alexander's point was more coherent than I gave him credit for. Alexander wrote, "Stop pretending wind power has anything to do with reducing America's dependence on oil. Windmills generate electricitynot transportation fuel." I ridiculed the second sentence, given that Alexander had just touted his goal of electrifying half of the U.S. auto fleet, which of course would mean that wind powered-electricity would be transportation fuel. But the context of the previous sentence suggests a different point, which is that it's the electrification of cars that will determine our dependence on oil, not wind power per se. Alexander is correct that wind power has little, though not zero, relationship to how much oil we use. I'm willing to grant that Alexander was guilty of unclear writing in a limited space rather than the extreme illogic of which I originally accused him.

Still, my broader point stands, which is that Alexander embraces the positive goals of reducing carbon emissions but is unwilling to support any of the changes required to implement it. His vision remains incoherent, but less so than I suggested.

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