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
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
We have met the enemy. And it is not OPEC.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle