Friday, April 28, 2006

Energy: Once Again, the Need to Hold Bush Accountable

I've been reading various things all day and haven't much to add to what others are saying. This week the Republican scandals have continued. The incompetence of the Bush Administration has not changed. Congressional Republicans, including a barking Senator Specter who has no bite, continue to show no backbone when it comes to doing the right thing. And after 1,560 weeks, we have once again gone another week without an energy policy in this country. The almost forgotten Rush Limbaugh was arrested and is apparently pleading guilty to prescription fraud though he tried to spin it as something else. The White House press briefing will be led by a man named Snow thus immediately inviting snickers that already make a mockery of the process; it won't be long before another White House scandal hits and we see a Saturday Night Live skit showing reporters in the press room trying desperately to stand up to ask questions during a blizzard of snow—yes, the variations are endless. And the war in Iraq goes on. And we continue to hear the echos of 200 years of American history.

Clearly, though, the biggest story of the week are sharply rising gasoline prices as well as a record high for oil. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster reminds us to recognize the problems and then focus on solutions:
...Bush has already concluded, just days after he asked Abu Gonzales to look into the possibility of price gouging, that there is no evidence of price gouging.

It is precisely because Bush won’t require anything of Big Oil that Congress should tax their windfall profits, which are being generated largely from the intentional consequences of Bush’s energy and foreign policies. If Bush was serious about energy independence, he would use the revenue from an excess profits tax, as well as the removal of all Big Oil corporate welfare to fund the new Apollo Initiative so that Big Oil is no longer controlling our energy and foreign policies.

There is a simple Democratic response and fall campaign TV commercial in all of this:

"President Bush and Dick Cheney have faith in the oil companies to solve high gas prices and global warming. Of course they would, because Big Oil has dictated Bush's foreign, energy and environmental policies. But can you, our children, and our soldiers abroad afford anymore to allow Big Oil to control our government?"

Faith that the oil companies will make us less dependent on foreign oil is no longer an option. We will continue to need oil and the oil sector will continue to make profits but the overwhelming portion of the energy portfolio should no longer belong to such companies.

There are different people out there with different solutions and ideas. The Left Coaster links to a pdf file for the Apollo Initiative. Here's a regular link to the web site for the Apollo Alliance who are sponsoring the Apollo Initiative. There are a handful of sites out there of this type but I notice a number of Democratic names associated with this one and will be taking a look. I believe there are other Democratic proposals as well and there are others with ideas.

I fully expect Republicans to muddle the debate. We have seen a rash of scams in recent years and the same will happen with proposed technologies that are called alternative energy. I fully expect the Republican leadership to play bait and switch.

We have needed a muscular energy policy for over thirty years but there can be no question that Bush and Cheney and Congressional Republicans have aggravated the problem just since 2001. Steve Clemons, who normally writes about foreign affairs, reminds us:
Oil barons are inappropriately lining their coffers with mountains of dollars from American citizens by generating oligopolistic cartel conditions on the price of refined oil and gasoline. Yesterday, Exxon posted a first-quarter profit of $8.4 billion and is on track to outpace the most profitable year in its history.

Dems and other outraged Americans should beat on the oil and gas industry and immediately suspend all tax giveaways that we have arranged for an industry that is sucking away a greater share of the meager resources of America's struggling middle class and less well off families.

The combination of Katrina damage in the Gulf and the increased drumbeat for a hot strike against Iran have given oil firms the camouflage they need to drive prices higher in an implicitly organized cartel. The government -- even with competent investigations -- will be unable to do much in this environment.

But no one seems to be going back and pounding on Dick Cheney again to demand once more -- Supreme Court decision or not -- that he disclose what America's energy firms sought from him, what they advised him, what was bartered between his office and the energy firms in secret meetings when assembling a "national energy policy."

If there is blame to be assigned for today's situation, it rests with Cheney and the utter failure of the Bush energy policy that was crafted cooperatively with a secret oil and energy industry cabal -- whose proceedings of key meetings Cheney will not disclose.

Why are Dems not resurrecting this Cheney/Oil Industry controversy?

I will be writing more on this as I don't think that "cheap gas" should be the goal of Dems and oppose a race to the bottom with the President on figuring out all the tax suspensions and rebates that would generate only minor offsets for American consumers against the obscene profits of ravenous oil CEOs.
We shouldn't forget Newt Gingrich's Contract with America as another cause of high energy prices. Any remaining notion that Republican right wing conservativism has any useful ideas is dead. Congressional Democrats should avoid that road. Rational conservatives, moderates and liberals may have much to offer but there's not a doubt in my mind that everybody has to raise their game. We have a long ways to go.

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