NBC's Tim Russert and NYT's Tom Friedman Call For 'Miracle Tax' On Gas

Tim Russert and Tom Friedman don't think you're paying enough at the gas pump, in fact they seemed downright giddy about the prospect of increasing the gas tax as a way to end America's "oil addiction." Appearing on this weekend's CNBC's Tim Russert program the New York Times columnist was asked for his solutions to America's energy crisis.

Friedman warned: "Tim if we don't find an alternative to fossil fuels to fulfill their dreams, we're going to burn up, choke up, heat up and smoke up this planet so much faster than even Al Gore predicts," and then he issued this clarion call for green technology: "Green, my fellow Americans, is the new red, white, and blue. That's my motto." Then Friedman, egged on by Russert, went even further by calling for a "miracle tax," on gas.

The following came in Friedman's response to Russert asking him if he saw, "any strategy to wean us off oil?":

Friedman: "This is not your parents' energy crisis. So what I say in the book, and what I'm trying to do in my column, I'm a big believer, Tim, that to name something is to own it. You know, that's one thing you do learn in the columnist business. If you name an issue, you own an issue. And the issue green has been named by its opponents, subtly, and they named it sissy, liberal, tree-hugging, girly-man, unpatriotic, vaguely French, okay? That's what the opponents have, that's how they've kind of named green. What I'm trying to do is rename green. Green, to me, is the most geo-political, geo-economic, capitalistic, patriotic thing you can be today. Green, my fellow Americans, is the new red, white, and blue. That's my motto."

Russert: "Is there a political leader who understands it may be necessary to raise the cost of gasoline, which you've suggested, in order to wean people off it so that we really can convert away from our, our dependence on Middle Eastern oil?"

Friedman: "I think many of them understand it, but so far no one has stepped forward. No one knows politics better than you, Tim. Doesn't it strike you as odd that not one person out of 535 members of Congress and the 50 people running for President, wouldn't one person just want to take a flier on this? To be the Ross Perot of this story? To tell the truth? I mean, this is like the miracle tax. You get a gasoline tax, a dollar a gallon, you use that money to shore up Social Security, the deficit. You tell people, we're gonna deal with your energy insecurity and your personal insecurity."

Russert: "Brazil can do it, and the United States of America cannot."

Friedman: "That's really what we're telling our people. And to me, that's really pathetic. It's such a poverty of imagination."

The following is the final segment in its entirety:

Tim Russert: "And we're back talking to Tom Friedman. His book, bestseller all across the world, The World Is Flat, he has now updated and expanded with particular focus on young people and education all across the country. You have written about, passionately, our addiction to oil. You did a documentary for Discovery TV about that subject. We heard a lot of discussion a few months ago, the President saying we're addicted to oil. Do you see in the United States, in the official government, any strategy to wean us off of oil?"

Thomas Friedman: "Not one that I think will scale and really make a difference, Tim. I think what's missing from the administration, and maybe from the wider public, is an appreciation that this is not your parents' energy crisis. For several reasons. Number one, we're in a war on terrorism with people fueled, funded and financed by our energy purchases. Yes, our attack, we, we, we fund the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force with our tax dollars. We fund Hezbollah, Islamic jihad, Hamas Iran and all the related regimes and charities with our energy purchases. We're funding both sides in the war on terrorism. How smart is that? Number two, the world is flat, and three billion new consumers just walked onto the playing field, all with their own version of the American dream, a house, a car, a toaster, a microwave and a refrigerator. Tim if we don't find an alternative to fossil fuels to fulfill their dreams, we're going to burn up, choke up, heat up and smoke up this planet so much faster than even Al Gore predicts. That leads to number three. The growth industry of the 21st century is going to be clean power and green technology. Talk to Jeff Immelt of General Electric, which owns this network. They get that. That's why if you look where General Electric is investing now, a lot of its growth area is in green power, clean technology, because they understand, this is gonna be the industry of the 21st century. That we know. What we don't know? Are American companies gonna be players in this industry, or is it gonna be dominated by China, Japan or Europe? You know, China's gonna go green, Tim. China's going to go green not because they listen to me or Al Gore or read Rachel Carson. China's gonna go green because China can't breathe, okay? They're growing at 10 percent, they're giving back two or three percent in lost health days, polluted rivers and sick workers. China's going gonna go green, that we know. But is China going to innovate around this? I think so, and China is going to be, green China's going to be a real challenge for us, because they're going to come up with low-cost, scaleable green technologies. They have to be low cost to scale in China, and if they don't scale, they don't have an impact. And then they're gonna use those low-cost, scaleable green technologies and come our way and clean our clock in the industry of the 21st century. So if you enjoy importing your Prius, as we have, from Japan, God knows what you're gonna enjoy importing from China by the way of clean power in the 21st century. Lastly, Tim, basically, what happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after 11/9, we thought the fall of the Berlin Wall was going to unleash an unstoppable tide of free markets and free people. And it did for about 10, 15 years. But that unstoppable tide coincided with oil at 20 to $40 a barrel. As oil has moved from there to 40 to 70, $80 a barrel, what we've seen is that unstoppable tide of free markets and free people is now meeting a countertide of what I would call petro-authoritarianism. This is Russia, Venezuela, Sudan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Angola, a whole group of states now empowered by $80-a-barrel oil. And these authoritarian petrol estates, these petro-authoritarians, are now a real block on the expansion of free markets and free people. This is not your parents' energy crisis. So what I say in the book, and what I'm trying to do in my column, I'm a big believer, Tim, that to name something is to own it. You know, that's one thing you do learn in the columnist business. If you name an issue, you own an issue. And the issue green has been named by its opponents, subtly, and they named it sissy, liberal, tree-hugging, girly-man, unpatriotic, vaguely French, okay? That's what the opponents have, that's how they've kind of named green. What I'm trying to do is rename green. Green, to me, is the most geo-political, geo-economic, capitalistic, patriotic thing you can be today. Green, my fellow Americans, is the new red, white, and blue. That's my motto."

Russert: "Is there a political leader who understands it may be necessary to raise the cost of gasoline, which you've suggested, in order to wean people off it so that we really can convert away from our, our dependence on Middle Eastern oil?"

Friedman: "I think many of them understand it, but so far no one has stepped forward. No one knows politics better than you, Tim. Doesn't it strike you as odd that not one person out of 535 members of Congress and the 50 people running for President, wouldn't one person just want to take a flier on this? To be the Ross Perot of this story? To tell the truth? I mean, this is like the miracle tax. You get a gasoline tax, a dollar a gallon, you use that money to shore up Social Security, the deficit. You tell people, we're gonna deal with your energy insecurity and your personal insecurity."

Russert: "Brazil can do it, and the United States of America cannot."

Friedman: "That's really what we're telling our people. And to me, that's really pathetic. It's such a poverty of imagination."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.