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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein.

Sometimes the absurdity of a columnist leaves me speechless. Take this column from yesterday's WSJ by Holman W. Jenkins Jr.. All I can do is shake my head in wonder.

First he writes a fake letter from Toyota (please see my post on his past column); yesterday he came out with this:

But doesn't saving oil have benefits beyond the dollars saved -- for instance, postponing the doom of civilization?

No: If Prius owners consume less, there's less demand, prices will be lower and somebody else will step up to consume more than they would at the otherwise higher price. That's the price mechanism at work. Oil is a fantastically useful commodity. Humans can be relied upon to consume all the oil they'd be willing to consume at a given price.

More absurdity below.

But wouldn't using less oil make us less dependent on Mideast imports?

Just the opposite: In the nature of things, the cheapest oil is consumed first, and Mideast oil is the cheapest. Drive a Hummer if you want to reduce America's reliance on Arab oil. Indeed, if we could all just pull together and drive gasoline prices high enough, we'd be able to satisfy all our fuel needs next door from Canadian oil sands.

So get rid of those hybrids. And why are you Europeans driving such efficient cars? Don't you see all the harm your causing. Jerome, get a Hummer.

Let it also be noted our primary political interest in the Middle East over the past 50 years has been Israel, which has no oil. Even Saddam would have been delighted to sell us all the oil we wanted if we had been prepared to acquiesce in his extracurricular depredations. Our attempt to reform Iraqi society is costing us many multiples of the real value of Iraqi oil exports to the world market.

To wit, let's not underestimate the degree to which our overseas entanglements are despite our interest in oil, rather than because of it.

Oil has nothing to do with our foreign policy; it's so clear now. This is the Wall Street Journal?

In any case, fuel economy plays an ambiguous role in the fight against air pollution. Our considerable progress against the traditional pollutants has come by specifying allowable emissions per mile driven, not per gallon consumed. Meanwhile, CAFE rules raise the cost of a car while reducing the cost of operating it. Being rational even when they don't meant to be, consumers respond by getting more use of out their cars -- driving 15,000 miles per year, up from 10,000 since the rules were adopted. (And auto makers have met this demand by greatly improving vehicle reliability.)

That leaves carbon dioxide, aka greenhouse gas, to support the increasingly rickety rationale for treating fuel efficiency as a socially desirable end in itself. Here, we can only suggest Prius fans might do the planet more good by convincing the American public of the merits of nuclear energy, the closest thing to a genuinely "green solution" to energy challenges in the real world.

This is part of Toyota's response to Jenkins's last car column:
Mr. Jenkins used some inventive math to try to make the case against hybrids, including saying a comparable car to the Prius costs $9,500 less. I'd like to provide some different numbers that speak to the real heart of this matter -- customer acceptance. This year, a Consumer Reports survey of more than 250,000 car owners ranked the Prius as the most satisfying vehicle, with 94% saying they'd buy one again.

Another significant number is 100 million -- that's the gallons of gas we estimate our U.S. hybrids have saved since the Prius debuted in 2000. That's enough to fuel a fleet of 200,000 delivery vehicles for a year. As much as I'd like to take credit by saying we are brilliant marketers and have painted a green picture to sell our products, the people who purchase our vehicles know the truth -- our cars tell the story for us. And we believe they will continue to do so, which is why we're introducing a hybrid version of the Lexus GS next year, as well as putting a hybrid powertrain in America's most popular car, the Camry.

Am I missing something here? Can anyone assure me that I've not fallen down the rabbit hole? Please.

I'll leave you with one final thought: This is what the people who run our country read. And as Napoleon Bonaparte said: "In politics stupidity is not a handicap."

Cross posted on on European Tribune, the fabulous My left Wing, and Booman Tribune.

Originally posted to Chris Kulczycki on Thu Dec 15, 2005 at 03:35 AM PST.


Jenkins is:

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