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Democracy & Technology Blog Friedman echoes Forbes

We noted a few weeks ago that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman had retreated from his previous moralism on the topic of alternative energy to embrace coal as a key future source of U.S. electricity. After years of AlGore-ithmic pie-in-the-sky pronouncements, it seems, reality knocked him over the head.
Now Friedman is back, echoing Steve Forbes and me. This time over the price of oil. In August I argued in The Wall Street Journal that high oil prices, caused mostly by an inflationary monetary policy, were fueling rogue regimes in Tehran and Caracas. Then in October Forbes was even more explicit: in ignoring the effects of monetary policy on the price of petroleum products, the U.S. was letting a “powerful anti-terror weapon” go “unused.” Forbes and I agreed that if the Fed got control of the dollar and inflation, oil prices would fall substantially, and emboldened petro-pols like Ahmadinejad and Chavez would be put on the defensive.
Now comes Tom Friedman, arguing that cutting the price of oil is our most effective tactic against Tehran.

In short, the best tool we have for curbing Iran’s influence is not containment or engagement, but getting the price of oil down….

This is welcome news because for years Friedman has been calling not for cheaper oil but just the opposite — an oil price floor of $40 or $50 per barrel — so that political energy schemes like ethanol and wind have a fighting chance against far more economical fossil and nucelar fuels.
Friedman doesn’t get the centrality of monetary policy in all of this, but on both scores — coal and the price of oil — Friedman is now on the right track. It just shows that hard-headed analysis and economic reality — not lofty uneconomic utopianism — are the keys to our energy future, and our national security.
-Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson is a Senior Fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, where he researches technology and economics and contributes to the Disco-Tech blog. He is currently writing a book on the abundance of the world economy, focusing on the Chinese boom and developing a new concept linking economics and information theory. Swanson writes frequently for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on topics ranging from broadband communications to monetary policy.