It's taken over five years, but George W. Bush finally made a concession speech to Al Gore.
He conceded that America needs to conserve, by buying hybrid vehicles and developing new energy sources.
Trying to calm the yips in his party and the country over exploding gasoline prices, the president sounded a bit like a wild-eyed Ozone Man himself yesterday, extolling the virtues of alternative fuel derived from cooking grease, sugar, grass, wood chips, soybean oil and corn.
But then he got ahold of himself. "You just got to recognize there are limits to how much corn can be used for ethanol," he said, standing in front of a bucolic mural. "After all, we got to eat some."
Uh....actually, no we don't. In fact, if the American diet became a bit less cornified
and if they took some of that corn used to make high fructose corn syrup and made ethanol, we might drop fuel prices a bit...were it not for the fact that it takes more energy in the form of fossil fuels to produce ethanol -- or biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants -- than is generated
. But let's continue....
You could run a fleet of S.U.V.'s on the gas that W. was spewing about fuel. Bill Clinton would have been more likely to crack down on fast food than W. and Dick Cheney would be to crack down on Big Oil.
Even the usually supportive Wall Street Journal editorial page chastised Republicans for putting on "Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fright wigs" to shout about corporate greed and market manipulation.
W.'s big move was to ever so slightly beef up a federal investigation into oil company price manipulation that's been under way since Katrina. "It's a great idea," said the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid. "So good that we passed a law last year calling for that."
Price manipulation could explain the marginal — why gas went from, say, $2.70 to $2.90 — but not why gas went from $1.40 to $2.70. That's more about fundamental forces: Chinese and Indian demand, markets spooked by Iran's threats, Nigeria's unrest, Venezuela's talk of nationalizing its oil industry, and the Pentagon's bungling of the restoration of Iraq's infrastructure.
Gasoline prices may be hurting average folks, but the oilers who helped put the Boy King and the Duke of Halliburton in office with lavish donations are enjoying record profits and breathtaking bonuses.
The Oilmen in the Oval, incompetent in so many ways, have brilliantly achieved one of their main objectives: boosting the fortunes of the oil industry and the people who run it.
All those secret meetings the vice president had back in 2001, letting the energy and oil big shots help write our energy policy — one that urged more oil and gas drilling — worked like a charm. In all their years in government, Mr. Cheney and the Bushes have never done anything to hold the oil companies' feet to the fire, or get Americans' feet off the gas pedal.
Last night I put 7.6 gallons of gasoline into our 2001 Honda Civic and gave the station attendant two tens, a single, and three quarters. It used to cost me 10 bucks for just over a half-tank of gas. Now, I drive nine miles each way to work, and Mr. Brilliant was laid off recently, we we aren't a high-use household at the moment. And frankly, I have zero sympathy for SUV drivers complaining about high gas prices. It's not unlike the Iraq War argument, If I knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, why didn't John Kerry? Anyone with half a brain should have known that if demand for oil is increasing worldwide, and you combine that with a secretive energy panel convened at this Administration's inception and the close ties this Administration has with Big Oil, it's not hard to do the math.
It seems that every time there's a price spike like this, the price then drops to a level above the level we had become used to paying. So if we became accustomed to paying $2.39, and now gas is $3.02, the next time the price drops it'll settle down around $2.45 -- and so on. So little by little, we get used to paying a higher price -- enough so that Ford and GM can continue to lumber along making Excursions and Blazers, and idiotic Americans who insist they need to drive on New Jersey's highways in what are essentially armored vehicles will continue to buy them -- and then scream bloody murder when the price of gasoline goes up. But they will buy them, and they will pay the gas prices, and there will be NO outcry at all for alternative energy sources.
Because Americans have come to believe that cheap (relatively speaking) gasoline is somehow our birthright. And if we have to kill a few hundred thousand or million people in the Middle East, along with a few thousand of our own citizens, they're willing to pay the price. After the 9/11 attacks, Bill Maher published a book called When you Drive Alone, you Ride with Bin Laden
. Somehow we've forgotten the connection between our thirst for petroleum and the very regimes in the Middle East we're fighting. It is not "our oil", and yes, it is under "their sand." And if we had a half a brain in our collective heads, we'd demand a Manhattan Project for energy independence -- one which would simultaneously do something about our dependence on oil AND global warming.
(cross-posted at Brilliant at Breakfast