Here are a couple of issues that have nothing and yet everything to do with one another.
1. In the days since the SOTU, there has been quite a bit of talk about what constitutes a reasonable energy plan. There do, however, seem to be two distinct camps on the energy required for driving our vehicles. Charles Krauthammer is part of the contingent that wants to raise gasoline taxes thereby lowering consumption.
The other side of the argument is well-represented by blogger Kevin Drum. He suggests that huge increases in gasoline prices in 2005-2006 did little to affect consumption, so a tax probably won't do much either. Instead, he wants to raise minimum fuel efficiency standards. That is fine, but then it becomes cheaper in relative terms to drive. That could in turn increase consumption, which is not at all what we want to do.
There are merits to each of these plans, but both seem like partial solutions at best. My question is why we couldn't combine both ideas to achieve maximum effect with minimum impact on Americans who depend on their vehicles. My very simple (and most likely naive) notion is that we raise mileage standards and gasoline taxes congruently. You can drive more miles on a tank of gasoline that also costs you more money. In the end, your price per mile driven changes very little - theoretically allowing people to drive similar quantities on less fuel. Is there a reason why I should be reprimanded for stupidity here?
2. I have several friends who are staunch supporters of Mark Funkhouser for Kansas City mayor. I have told each of them that their opinion means a lot to me, but I need to be convinced by the candidates themselves. I have never had a doubt that Funkhouser is likely the strongest candidate in the field concerning policy and financial understanding. I have been concerned, however, about his vision for the city. Hearing him speak on television and radio about Kansas City's future has been frustrating at times. I know that he is trying to set realistic expectations, but at times realism seems to give way to morosity. I really do want a realistic plan for the city, but I also want it to feel like progress.
Anyway, a transportation question posed by the star about the light rail system has possibly turned the tide in Funkhouser's favor. I read the responses by each candidate, and Funkhouser seemed the only one ready to deal with this issue today. He gave more than a perfunctory answer to the question, which is more than most candidates. More importantly he acknowledged challenges, but also laid out specifics in a way that inspired confidence in the future. Well done.