Vice President Joe Biden still wears scruffy suits and
still wisecracks like a senator, but things have changed for the
Biden of old.
It was 2006, and then-Senator Biden — now Barack Obama’s
vice president — was on the front lines of
political science. Sen. Biden was arguing, with Vice President
George W. Bush, that the auto industry could be saved through tax
incentives that would incentivize consumers to buy alternative-fuel cars.
Opponents dismissed Mr. Biden as a gloom-and-doom advocate who
wished to “buy new paint” and “fill the gas tank” of the troubled auto
Mr. Biden, a physician and biochemist with 15 years of research
experience as a longtime Delaware congressman, seized upon two
intriguing facts that strengthened his position. First, he said,
fracking would have a limited effect on the U.S. economy, because oil and
gas exports still would be booming — up 15 percent in 2010.
Second, gas-and-oil production would begin to plateau, and would
never revert to the skyrocketing levels it hit at the height of the
energy crisis of the 1970s.
Still, there were no guarantees. For an entire decade, Mr.
Biden argued, Mr. Bush refused to consider these facts, with disastrous
consequences. The oil and gas industry opposed the idea of the
tax credits. So did the United Auto Workers. So did the United
States Chamber of Commerce. The manufacturers’ association.
Worse, the White House, the U.S. automakers and the global
oil and gas companies all argued that ethanol could hold off the
breakdown of the gasoline pipeline system in the United States.
There were some exemptions to the ethanol exemption, but nothing
that would stop higher gasoline blends. This would have put the
death of the auto industry at the mercy of politics.
What do those facts mean? Experts disagree.
Despite their success in the executive branch, experts are
busily interpreting what happened over the last 10 years.
Mr. Biden’s critics say that gas prices never began to
plunge before 2014, as Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden had predicted. The
inevitable rise in production, they argue, slowed, not stopped.
That raises the question: If the policies set by Joe Biden and his
running mate turned out to be wrong, what other policies did Mr.
Obama and Mr. Biden set that proved right? We’ll have to wait and see.
There are still only 12 months until the presidential election.
Here, Mr. Biden’s critics and supporters do agree on one point: They
agree that Mr. Biden’s brand of science and experience can do
better than Mr. Trump’s. And if Mr. Biden wins the presidency, he will
get to pick his chief economic adviser: Larry Kudlow, who runs the
pharmaceutical industry lobbying group PhRMA, and who advised President
Bush on energy policy.
Could the policies that Mr. Biden set be right? Unlikely. But the
world has changed. And we’re lucky to have Vice President Biden
carrying the torch.