Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Republicans to Investigate Their Own Energy Policy

The United States currently uses over 20,400,000 barrels of oil a day. George W. Bush is stopping the purchase of shipments of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; that will save us 75,000 barrels a day. Let's look at that again:

20,400,000 barrels of oil a day are used.
75,000 barrels of oil a day will be saved by Bush.

Bush is only saving us a tiny fraction. I suppose every little drop helps but if we're having a refinery problem as The Left Coaster reminds us, then what exactly is going on?:
If The Problem Is Refining Capacity, Then Why Mess With The SPR?

(snip)

President Bush, at the urging of the petrified GOP leadership in the House and Senate, will ask the Alberto “See No Evil” Gonzales Justice Department and the toothless Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether or not Big Oil, which has bankrolled Bush/Cheney, is engaged in price gouging. Yet it was the GOP that killed a 2005 Democratic effort to make price gouging a federal crime, and Bush's FTC has looked the other way repeatedly in cases like this.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert seem anxious to help themselves as well as Bush with their sagging numbers by investigating the oil companies. Arianna Huffington has a few choice words for the top Republican leadership in Washington:
The president may turn to God when it comes to shaping his foreign policy, but his energy policy is strictly courtesy of the Men Upstairs at Big Oil.

Which is why it is beyond comical to watch Moe, Curly, and Larry -- sorry, I mean Bush, Hastert, and Frist -- getting all blue in the face about skyrocketing gas prices, and calling on the Energy and Justice Departments to look into possible market manipulation by oil companies.

It’s the least believable call for an investigation since O.J. set out to find the real killers.
The rising oil prices are a complicated story; I can remember a pro-Bush editorial in US News & World Report in 2003 by Morton Zuckerman that looked like something Karl Rove and Dick Cheney might have inspired:
Right now the critical player in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia. It is a shaky, despotic regime that uses its vast revenues to sustain a corrupt living standard for about 7,000 princes in their pursuit of yachts, women, and liquor, and in support of a brand of religious extremism that has inspired many of their young to hate us--and seek our destruction, according to the recent intelligence assessment of what led up to 9/11. But whatever our unease about the regime, it is simply better than an alternative made up of Osama bin Laden supporters or their equivalent, who are driven more by homicidal hatred than simple greed.

Fair is foul. Saudi Arabia is the kingpin of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a cartel for the rich that has held oil prices above a fair-market value for several decades. The OPEC countries maintain that they want to ensure a plentiful supply of oil to the world's economy at a price that is fair to both producers and consumers. But they have a dubious definition of fair. Most people think that, without OPEC, a barrel of oil would sell for between $10 and $12, and gasoline prices would fall below $1 a gallon in the United States. OPEC is currently controlling production to keep the world price at $32 a barrel and continuing to flaunt its monopoly power.

The new factor is Iraq. The challenge is how to manage Iraq's role. How much oil Iraq produces will not only determine the living standards of its people but also affect everything from the Russian economy, uniquely dependent on energy prices, to the stability of Saudi Arabia, and indeed of Iran. And, of course, the price that Americans pay for gasoline.

We have known for thirty years that we need to do something about finite oil supplies and Republicans in 2003 were fantasizing about cheap oil? I'm far from having all the answers but it's worrisome when conservative Republicans collectively engage in fantasies for public consumption and then are put in charge of something as vital as our energy policy. If tomorrow, light sweet crude drops back to as low as $40/barrel, it will not change the need for a longterm energy policy for the United States. And that's without considering Global Warming which also needs to be taken seriously. If Frist and Hastert are the ones that are going to investigate the oil companies, it is Bush's and their own energy policy that they are investigating.

One last point for the night. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was our ace in the hole when Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita went right through our Gulf oil rigs and left havoc in their wake. That reserve is there for a reason. Katrina and Rita showed what a terrorist attack on world oil supplies might do to our own energy situation. Neither Democrats nor Republicans should treat the reserve lightly. And that begs some questions. If Bush isn't filling the reserve, then what does that say about the possibility that he may launch an attack against Iran? If Bush has been bluffing, he just undermined his own bluff. If he's still serious about an attack, either before or after the November election, then stopping the buildup of the reserve is a criminal mistake all by itself. And if Bush is lying about stopping the buildup of the reserve, then we're really getting into dangerous territory.

When Bush was running for president in 2000, he said something that for once was correct; Think Progress has the excerpt:
The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security.

Ahhh, but the election season has begun and if the Republicans maintain complete control of Washington, then a year from now no sensible energy policy will be in sight.

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