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Published on Saturday, September 30, 2000 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Oil Issue Too Slick for Gore, Bush
by Marie Cocco
Thanks to you, dear sheiks, we get to have a Really Important Debate over energy policy this fall. A discussion that shows us just how Deep and Critical are the differences between the two presidential candidates when it comes to the burning question of how to keep Cheap Gas in the SUV and Cheap Oil in the basement heater.

You, oh grand cartel, have given us a gift: the ability to see clearly our choice between inveterate panderer and incorrigible profiteer.

Vice President Al Gore, chilled that the onset of autumn has coincided with exorbitant home-heating oil prices, fretted he could lose his political hold on the Northeast. So Gore did what he always does when he gets a little spooked.

He flipped out.

Now he has given us a few drops of oil from strategic reserves and with it the great oil-price brouhaha.

In a reverse double-flip, Gore not only has abandoned his previous opposition to using the oil reserves to tamp down prices, but also his own record as one of the few politicians who once had the guts to promote higher energy taxes, lower consumption and alterna tive fuels as the best long-term energy solutions.

George W. Bush thinks Gore's latest flip is a fabulous flop.

He gets to brand Gore as a politician who would do anything to get elected, while simultaneously crowing that finally the campaign has shifted to a subject he actually knows something about. Oil.

Bush had a long career as a failed oilman. This was before he got bailed out of his failures by more successful oilmen. He used his oil- bailout money to buy a stake in the Texas Rangers baseball team, which eventually made him richer than he was at birth. This might suggest that Bush's real expertise is not exactly in oil.

Anyway, Bush's energy policy can pretty much be summed up in the immortal words of that 1970s bumper sticker, once seen so frequently in the South: ``Drive Fast. Freeze a Yankee.'' Like everyone else from Texas, Bush does not believe in conservation. Or in forcing domestic oil producers to refine enough home-heating oil to get the Yankees through the winter. Or, heaven forbid, in taxing gas more heavily to make people start to think: Gee, maybe I should buy a basic sedan instead of an SUV.

In the fine tradition of oilmen, Bush believes in drilling. Everywhere. Most especially, Bush believes in drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If and when it were fully exploited over, say, a decade, this might give us a six-month supply of fuel.

Six months, folks, and we'd be right back where we are now.

Now, if there is one thing we know about OPEC and oil, it is that energy experts who aren't running for office or making money in the oil industry agree on what has to be done. We need to stop acting like we are entitled to gulp down 19.5 million barrels of oil a day.

We need to stop tooling around in SUVs when a station wagon, or less, would do just fine. We need to stop building new housing developments an hour's commute or longer from jobs -- unless the development comes with a mass-transit link.

We have met the enemy. And it is not OPEC.

2000 San Francisco Chronicle


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