Bush’s Energy Escapades

It was, to use Yogi Berra’s phrase—déjà vu all over again. George W. Bush’s energy program in his State of the Union speech echoed the many similar promises made by his presidential predecessors going back to Ronald Reagan. Promises that were either vague or if specific, distant from realization. What irony to pledge to become energy independent, as we become ever more dependent on imported oil—imports are now reaching 60 percent of total US oil consumption.

“America is addicted to oil,” exclaimed the President. No one more so than the President himself, a former oil industry executive who appointed over three dozen oil men like himself to high posts in his Administration—a regime marinated in oil.

The results have been, to say the least, oily. Talk as he has started to do about renewable forms of energy, his actions speak louder. Last year, Bush’s energy bill passed with billions of dollars in new subsidies for gas and oil, as if a staggering price for $60 or $70 a barrel is not enough to provide incentives to profit-glutted oil companies to produce.

Before reaching his desk, Bush made sure that some of the legislation’s provisions were cut out. The renewable portfolio standard that was to require electric companies to obtain a certain percentage of their fuel from renewable sources was dropped. Bush also rejected an “oil savings amendment” to reduce oil use. And, of course, he adamantly refused to support any higher federal standards for motor vehicle fuel efficiency which has reached its lowest dismal level since 1980. Going backward into the future—GM style!

Moreover, he never uses the onset of global warming as a reason for more fuel efficient vehicles—even as Alaska melts down in ice and permafrost more and more each year.

Unwilling to push the auto companies, presently subsidized by your tax dollars in a boondoggle joint program with Uncle Sam, George W. Bush turns his back on what specialists inside and outside the industry know. Namely, that, as MIT’s Technology Review documented in November 2002, “if it chose to, Detroit could manufacture a 40-mpg SUV by the end of the decade.” Using existing or readily available technology, cars could go to an average of 46 mpg, that is, from the present level of about 21 mpg.

Imagine if the auto companies started to move, during the first oil crises in the mid-Seventies. Your old vehicle would have reached the above-noted levels of efficiency, as the then U. S. Department of Transportation predicted could be the case.

Nice and warm in the White House, Mr. Bush did not throw his powerful lobbying crew late last year against the pouting reduction of the already inadequate low-income home fuel assistance program for impoverished Americans. This reduction occurred in retaliation to the Senate’s defeat of Senator Ted Stevens’ (Rep. Alaska) demand to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Drained long ago of any empathy, Bush did not even react to the stupendous profit reports last week by the big oil companies, led by Exxon Mobil corporation’s $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter of 2005 and $36.13 billion for the entire year.

Mind you, Exxon did not make this profit through its own innovation or bold marketing expertise. It received an undeserved windfall born of cartel-determined supplies and growing demand, the customary special tax breaks, expanding taxpayer subsidies from Washington, and the gas guzzling motor vehicles that the stubborn auto giants deliver to the marketplace.

With his big business uber-allies mentality, Mr. Bush would not even go along with his fellow Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley’s written request last November to the oil and gas moguls that they give 10 percent of their profits to help low-income Americans get through a cold winter.

Americans who do not qualify for low-income assistance are finding their budgets busted. David Harb of Redford, Michigan writes as a 58 year-old adult who stays home to take care of his elderly mother fulltime: “Regarding the prices of oil, natural gas and home heating costs, I am shocked, sickened & disgusted by their continually escalating utility bills that have gone through the roof and are driving the citizens, voters, taxpayers and homeowners of this state into bankruptcy and the poorhouse.”

There needs to be a consumer uprising, with each gouged citizen pouring their demands on their members of Congress, on talk radio shows, newspaper editors and talking it up in their neighborhood. Nothing is faster and more credible than word of mouth between friends and relatives. At least make the oil giants give some of it back while the winter is here.

For more information, visit www.USPIRG.org.

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