Bush finally woke up to the energy crisis.
Too bad he slept through it for the first four and a half years of his Presidency.
He and Dick Cheney pooh-poohed the idea of energy conservation even as Cheney issued a report in the spring of 2001 that showed we’d be even more dependent on Middle East oil by the year 2020 than we are now.
Cheney derided conservation as a “sign of personal virtue,” adding that “it cannot be the basis of a sound energy policy.”
At the time, Cheney thought invading Iraq was the basis of a sound energy policy.
At the time, he thought forcing other oil producing nations to favor ExxonMobil was the basis of a sound energy policy.
Then, even after 9/11 drove home the need for conservation as never before, Bush didn’t even stir. He told Americans to keep on shopping and keep on consuming. Not a word about the need to conserve.
When the energy bill was going through Congress just a few months ago, Bush and the Republicans resisted the one thing that would have had the most impact on energy conservation, and that’s raising the miles per gallon requirement for the auto companies.
“We’re getting worse gas mileage today than we were in 1987,” says Tyson Slocum, the research director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. Back then, the U.S. fleet was getting 22.1 miles a gallon. Now it’s getting 21 miles a gallon, he notes, citing EPA figures.
“Bush has done nothing to change that,” Slocum says. “That’s disgraceful.”
But not a surprise.
If you’re a crony capitalist, like oilman Bush, whose chief of staff, Andy Card, is a former lobbyist for the car companies, you don’t want to do anything to offend Big Oil or Big Auto.
Instead, lay it on the American people. Drive less, says Bush. Don’t go “on a trip that’s not essential.”
This prescription outrages Dennis Kucinich.
The oil companies “made $254 billion in profit in the last five years,” Kucinich said on the House floor on September 27. “What are we doing here? Drive less? The Administration is asking every American to sacrifice mobility, but not asking the oil companies to sacrifice a dime of their profit.”
A new poll shows that four out of five Americans support a windfall profits tax on the oil companies, but that’s not in Bush’s plans.
“The problem is not that the American people are driving too much,” Kucinich added. “The problem is that the oil companies are driving our energy policies, driving up the cost of gasoline, natural gas, and home heating oil at every chance, and driving themselves toward huge profits.”
Bush also urged Americans to use public transportation more, but he has systematically underfunded public transportation, from Amtrak on down.
“The President has continually spent on corporate giveaways and subsidies and ignored mass transit,” says Slocum. “He has supported the energy and transportation policies that big corporations wanted.”
Now Bush is ordering the federal bureaucracy to lessen its own energy use, which is not a bad idea, but it’s a drop in the oil bucket.
He’s no Jimmy Carter. And unless he taxes the windfall profits of the oil companies, and unless he supports higher fuel efficiency standards, and unless he really invests in mass transit, Bush will not be moving us down the path of energy self-sufficiency.
But he won’t do those things because he would be offending his constituency: not the American people but the oil executives.
© 2005 The Progressive