Saturday, August 18, 2007

Straw Man

The US House of Representatives approved an energy conservation bill on August 4th that includes, among other things, a tax break of $20 per month for bike commuters, which takes effect at the beginning of next year.

The vote on HR 2776 (Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007) was largely split along party lines, and was preceded by inspired testimony from Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

"A major component of the Democrats' energy legislation and the Democrats' answer to our energy crisis is. . . hold on. . . wait one minute. . . wait one minute. . . it is promoting the use of the bicycle.

Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.

Democrats believe that using taxpayer funds in this bill to the tune of $1 million a year should be devoted to the principle of: "Save energy, ride a bike.'' Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous. Some might even say Congress should use this energy legislation to create new energy, bring new nuclear power plants on line, use clean coal technology, energy exploration, but no, no. They want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike. This is absolutely amazing.

Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Democrats, promoting 19th Century solutions to 21st century problems. If you don't like it, ride a bike. If you don't like the price at the pumps, ride a bike.

Stay tuned for the next big idea for the Democrats: Improving energy efficiency by the horse and buggy."
There is so much wrong in these statements, he should have been embarrassed to stand on the floor of the House to make them. First off, he's clearly setting up a straw man argument, which isn't really an argument but is merely a way of ridiculing the Democrats. His statement, "Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous", is completely loaded If he was engaging in an actual argument, he would have followed that up with evidence of how that is actually naive or ridiculous. At the very least, he should explain how riding a bike does not solve energy problems. He doesn't, however. The closest he gets is calling it a "19th Century Solution."

Well, Pat. at least it's a solution rather than more of the same. Clean coal? Don't make me laugh. Clean coal is not clean, it is merely less polluting than the traditional, 19th Century coal technology. And when you say "new energy", you're merely talking about new sources of the same old energy, coal, natural gas and oil.

So, let's take a look at how much of a solution riding a bike might
actually be.

About 40% of all trips are shorter than 2 miles, which represents a
10-minute bike ride or a 30-minute walk.Let us make a ridiculous assumption that all of those trips were somehow able to convert from using an automobile to using a bicycle or walking. Actually, we'll use the numbers from the 2001 National Transportation Survey that estimates that there are approximately 7.6 trillion trips annually. Divided by the number of trips less than 2 miles and we'll round that to 3 trillion. A bunch of math later, accounting for the percentage of trips less than 1 mile and those less than half a mile, that come out to approximately 3 billion miles driven in increments of less than 2 miles a day.

At a typical gas mileage, if those trips could be turned into bicycle or walking trips, it would save 125 million gallons of gasoline (produced by 6 million barrels of oil). At $2.75 a gallon, it would be saving consumers $343 million.

So, riding a bicycle and saving consumers $343 million is not going to solve our energy problems. Saving 6 million barrels of oil out of the 400 million barrels that we use on an annual basis is not going to end our dependence on foreign oil. The fact is, the Democrats never said it would. The legislation is a small tax incentive to begin the process of changing the way Americans choose to travel.

Conservation. Not finding new sources of the same energy to feed our gluttonous lifestyle but actually using LESS energy. And, if it works, it doesn't matter what century the solution comes from.

Congressman McHenry used a photo of an 1886 New Club Tandem bicycle to ridicule the Democrats specifically and bicyclists in general.
Does this look like a 19th Century solution?

Or how about this one?

Is he and his oil industry friends afraid that this:
may someday be replaced by this:


Anonymous said...

Kudos on an excellent post.

Anonymous said...

mchenry's closet is full and does not want anyone to know what's in it.

he is a fake.