Obama stated that we didn’t need to drill for more oil domestically in currently taboo areas because we could save the same amount of oil by getting everyone to properly inflate their tires and tune their engines. I think this minor issue neatly encapsulates a systemic fault in the thinking of Obama and leftists in general.
To whit: They believe that the mere hypothetical existence of a good means that one can enact real-world policies to reliably accomplish that good.
Or, more succinctly, if you can imagine it, you can do it
Someone in Obama’s campaign noticed that, hypothetically, if we had perfect auto maintenance for every car in the country, we could save enough oil that we would not need to drill in taboo areas. (Whether the actual estimates are valid or not does not matter for purposes of this discussion.) Obama then announced the hypothetical 100% perfect maintenance as policy, apparently without giving thought to any of the practical concerns of reaching the hypothetical oil savings.
For those on the Right, hypotheticals are a dime a dozen and uninteresting. Instead, they zero in on nuts and bolts of the real-world implementation of any particular hypothetical. When a rightist hears, “we can save ‘X’ amount of oil by tuning up ‘Y’ number of cars”, the rightist thinks, “How do we actually go about tuning up millions of cars? How do we educate, convince or even force people to tune up their cars? Obviously, they won’t do it on their own or they would have already done so.”
Everyone who does not live in an ivory tower understands that in the real-world we never see anything close to hypothetical performance. Back during the “Energy Crisis” of ’73-’83, the government tried to get people to tune up their cars and inflate their tires. They only saw an improvement of at most 5% in overall oil consumption due to improved maintenance, and most of that improvement came from fleet vehicles. If we get the same outcome today, Obama’s plan will save only 5% of the oil that’s provided by drilling in taboo areas. (Realistically, we will most likely see far less than 5% savings because modern cars do not benefit from tuneups as much as did the cars of 30 years ago.) Getting even 10%-20% of the cars tuned would be an enormous achievement but still fall far short of the savings needed.
Think of the practical issues involved. First, you must educate everyone who owns a car of the necessity of tuning and inflating. Given that many people don’t even understand the concept of under-inflation or tuneups, such education faces an up hill battle. Such an education campaign will cost tens of millions, take years and history suggests it will produce lackluster results at best. Obama offers no details for implementing such an education program and making it effective.
Second, someone must pay for the tuneups. Which cars benefit the most from tuneups? Older cars. Who drives older cars? Lower income people. Who can least afford to pay the cost of both the mechanical work and the cost of alternate transportation? Lower income people. If the individual fuel savings alone would induce people who don’t have a spare $50 to tune up their cars they would have already done so. In the end, most of the cars that most need tuning won’t get tuned.
Does Obama plan on some kind of voucher system, with accompanying bureaucratic overhead, to pay for tuneups for the cars of lower income Americans? Does he plan on making the failure to tuneup one’s car a crime? Again, Obama offers nothing concrete.
Thirdly, improved gas mileage due to improved maintenance most likely won’t save any oil on net because people will simply drive more. Obama’s simplistic model assumes that people drive a fixed number of miles regardless of the cost of doing so. In this cartoonish model, improving efficiency automatically reduces oil consumption. In reality, history shows that improved efficiency in energy use increases net consumption. People tend to spend roughly the same percentage of their budget on fuel. When the price per mile goes up, they drive less to stay within their budget. When the price per mile drops, for any reason, they tend to drive more. On net, they consume as much or more oil as the did before. So, even if we did manage to implement polices that resulted in the perfect maintenance of every car in America, history shows that we would not see any significant oil savings. Obama does not explain how he plans to escape this historical conundrum.
Obama addresses none of these nuts and bolts concerns. He merely voices the hypothetical method of saving oil and expects everyone to act as if he has already solved the problem. Nobody on the Left seems to even notice the disconnect between the hypothetical and real. They seem to honestly view the hypothetical oil savings as equal to actually creating more oil by long proven means. For the leftist, the idea of oil saved equals the reality of real oil in the economy.
Most of Obama’s policies are based on treating hypotheticals as concrete reality. Hypothetically, we can negotiate with murderous autocrats to reach a mutually acceptable and just solution to our antagonisms. Therefore, Obama will base his foreign policy on doing just that. Hypothetically, we can provide cost effective, innovative, universal health care to everyone using a top-down, centrally controlled socialized system. Therefore, we will. Hypothetically, we will have the technology to provide 25% of our electricity from “alternative” sources by 2020. Therefore we will set national policy based on that hypothetical instead of relying on proven, existing technology.
Obama and his supporters have a shockingly naive and simplistic model of the world. He lacks any intuitive grasp of the vast gulf between the ideal and the practical. One cannot even credit him with a “Field of Dreams” build-it-and-they-will-come vision. Instead, he seems to have an imagine-it-and-they-will-do-it vision. He can imagine an America with a fleet of hundreds of millions of perfectly tuned vehicles, so he bases his policy on the idea that tens of millions of Americans can and will alter their behavior just because Obama said so. He offers no concrete, practical and proven mechanisms for making his hypothetical a reality.
Presidents must deal in the concrete and specific. Hypothetical results do not cut it.