Lamar Alexander Doesn’t Know Much About Oil

There’s a lot not to like about Lamar Alexander’s WSJ op-ed on energy policy. Take for example his bullet point number seven “Stop pretending wind power has anything to do with reducing America’s dependence on oil. Windmills generate electricity—not transportation fuel.” Jon Chait points out that one problem with this is that cars can be made to run on electricity, as Alexander himself acknowledges with bullet five “electrify half our cars and trucks.”

Another issue, however, is that the view that oil is used exclusively as a transportation fuel is simply mistaken. Joe Romm recently linked to this Charles Komanoff chart showing what America used oil for in 2000:

oil_us_oil_use_2000_komanoff_data_gsld 1

Obviously moving people and goods is the biggest use of oil in the United States, but it’s far from the whole thing. In particular, heating is a major use and there are lots and lots of ways you can heat houses including using electricity—whether derived from windmills or whatever else. This kind of thing isn’t brain surgery, but it requires you to have some level of actual interest in figuring out what oil is for, not just a set of political attitudes (windmills bad, nukes good, blah blah) divorced from any facts.