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Black Gold, Red Ink

April 11th, 2005

Remember in the 2000 elections when Bush and Cheney claimed that Clinton and Gore had “no energy policy” and that they would be able to bring oil prices down from the ghastly high price of $35 per barrel by pressing OPEC nations to remember US actions during the Gulf War, forcing them to increase oil production, thereby bringing down oil prices? Remember how they scoffed at Clinton’s “driving up” oil prices and not trying to explore “alternative energy sources”?

Well, guess what. Oil prices are sky-high, now at $53 per barrel after hitting a peak of $58, and a Goldman-Sachs report warns of prices as high as $105 in the next few years.

So where’s the Bush/Cheney Oil-men strength? How come OPEC and Mexico haven’t answered their beck and call? And who knew that when Bush talked about drilling in ANWAR and “alternative energy sources” that he was talking about the same thing? Apparently he’s not aware of the fact that “alternative energy sources” does not mean simply drilling for oil in different spots.

Bush has talked big on this topic; in his 2005 State of the Union address, he said:

To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. Nearly four years ago, I submitted a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, alternative sources, a modernized electricity grid and more production here at home, including safe, clean nuclear energy. … Four years of debate is enough – I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.

Four years ago, he may have “submitted” a “strategy,” but in real life, he cut the funding for alternate energy by 50% in that very same year.

And what’s he gabbing on about here with “four years of debate is enough,” as if the Democrats have been holding this up? Hasn’t he noticed that his party controls the Congress and Democrats would undoubtedly vote for such an energy platform? He can get practically any bill he wants through; if this one has been held up for four years, it’s because he doesn’t want it to go through, like so many of his other feel-good promises that never get delivered on (while his hurt-the-average-American programs get quickly whisked through Congress).

Proof is in the funding: in his ’06 spending proposal, Bush wants to cut funding for researching alternative energy sources:

The FY06 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) programs envisions reductions totaling nearly $50 million – an overall cut of roughly 4 percent. This includes a 6 percent cut in Distributed Energy programs ($60,416 to $56,629); an 8 percent cut in the Geothermal Energy program ($25,270 to $23,299); an 18 percent cut in the Biomass/Biofuels program ($88,099 to $72,164); and a 90 percent cut in the Hydropower program ($4,862 to $500).

In the meantime, people trying to get to work on Bush’s disastrously low, beneath-the-poverty-line minimum wage are finding that a bigger and bigger chunk of their daily wage is being eaten up at the pump. Maybe Bush and his fatcat cronies don’t feel the effect of the price hike, but everyone else surely does. Bush has failed miserably on this issue.

Even if the world oil supply is not running out or even running low, consumption has increased to the point that we cannot sustain even the hope of lower prices. This is just part of Bush’s stealth tax hike–slash your services, raise state and local taxes, and prices for basics skyrocket. That pittance of a “tax cut” (mostly paid for by raising your taxes later) is more than offset by all the additional expenditures.

And what is planned by Bush for the future? Apparently nothing, aside from drilling in every other national park and crossing his fingers that we’ll hit the mother lode. Just keep that master plan in mind when you find yourself paying more than $3 per gallon of gas in the coming months.

We need an explosion in spending for research for alternate fuel, not drastic cuts. We need real solutions, not Vegas-style gambling on maybe finding an improbable all-you-can-pump oil field somewhere. If we don’t find such a new source free of oil dependence, it will be the Nth nail in America’s coffin pounded in by good ol’ Dubya.

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  1. Brad
    April 12th, 2005 at 12:04 | #1

    Loud cheers and vigorous applause. We need ‘Manhattan Project’ size research into alternative energy. It sometimes seems ludicrous to me that we’re still so solidly addicted to deriving power from burning an exhaustable natural resource and in doing so polluting the planet. There *has* to be other, smarter, better ways to do things.

    Brad

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