There are also some doubts about how much [higher fuel efficiency standards] will actually do to reduce greenhouse emissions, because there are all sorts of strange incentives where you -- if you make cars -- if you basically make it more efficient to drive cars, people will drive more. And the horn of dilemma of energy politics is what really drives concern about this energy in this country, at the gut level for most people, is high gas prices. And if you really want to fight global warming and try to reduce our carbon emissions, the cleanest, easiest, most rational way to do it would to make the price of gas even higher through very stiff gas prices. And, of course, that's what no one is willing to contemplate or talk about.
David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute, with a great op-ed piece on American Public Media's Marketplace program (listen to the piece)
[Presidential candidates Clinton, Obama, Romney are] all echoing President Bush. At the start of the year, the president told a Delaware audience that he thinks it appropriate to spend taxpayers' money on new energy technologies. Does anybody remember that we've been here before? In the 1970s, the Carter administration spent — sorry, invested — tens of billions of dollars to develop alternatives to imported oil. The results? The Synfuels Corporation — one of the most flagrant boondoggles in American economic history. A market-flunking exercise that made even the farm program look like sound public policy. Why would anyone want to go down that road again? ...
There's only one way to bring oil alternatives to market: keep energy prices high, with tax increases if necessary. Under that price umbrella, entrepreneurs, firms, and consumers will develop their own next-best solutions — cutting back on consumption, devising substitutes and so on. ... But no politician wants to tell voters that they have to pay more for fuel to achieve energy independence. Instead, they offer delusions that government investors can somehow do what trillions of dollars in private capital cannot: discover a cheap and abundant alternative to oil that will deliver cleaner fuel at lower prices.