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July 21, 2008
Bush the Pusher for a Nation of Oil Junkies
him the Enabler-in-Chief.
last few State of the Union speeches, President Bush has warned darkly
that the nation needs to break its oil addiction. Last week, however, he
reversed course on that, suggesting that the cure for addiction is just
one more quick fix.
Specifically, what the president did was lift an Executive Branch
moratorium on exploration and drilling for oil in the Outer Continental
was, like basically everything this president has done, a political
gesture rather than one of good policy. The Republican Party this summer
has struck upon what was an unexpected stroke of potential for them –
gas prices so high that the behavior of the American voter is actually
Their solution has so far largely been two-pronged pandering – opening
up oil reserves currently off limits for environmental reasons as both a
panacea for American motorists and also to keep happy the oil companies
that help keep the party’s coffers full. So far this summer, the debate
over America’s energy future has been focused basically on one thing –
to drill or not to drill.
Unfortunately, drilling to solve our energy problems is like
recommending a thimble-full of water to save a man in the desert dying
of dehydration. In fact, because of the time lag involved in actually
getting the oil to market, it’s like telling a man dying of dehydration
in the desert that you’ll get him a thimble-full of water in two weeks.
There is evidence for this, and it is not hard to come by. In fact, it
comes courtesy of the very same federal government that George Bush
runs. Studies on the amount of oil estimated to lie under the Outer
Continental shelf say that the impact on the worldwide price of oil by
what is to be had is likely to be negligible even when drilling reaches
peak production in two decades.
has to be tempered by a couple of other things, most notably the
location for much of that oil. It lies off the coast of California,
where the Republican governor and state assembly have mounted
bi-partisan opposition to continued drilling, and have also demonstrated
that they plan to take substantive action to curtail greenhouse gas
emissions. The oil estimated to lie under the Outer Continental Shelf
that isn’t off the coast of California, according to an analyst
for the Energy Information Administration, amounts to less than the
middle-of-the road estimates of what is available in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
an election year gambit, it’s meant to paint Democrats and liberals with
the same brush of demagoguery that has dominated American politics for
the last decade and a half. The word “radical” has again started
appearing next to “environmentalists” with the suggestion that all might
be right in the Republic if only the oil companies were allowed to
explore and drill wherever they pleased. No thought is devoted to
whether that actually makes any sense.
are the hallmarks to how the energy debate has unfolded this summer
before an important election year – an intense focus on where the next
fix is coming from, no careing about the long-term consequences and
blaming those who suggest that a problem exists. From the outside
looking in, this would appear to most reasonable people as a junkie
about to hit rock bottom. Most of us can imagine how this story usually
ends – with the junkie waking up in a flop house or ratty hotel and
penniless, alone and in poor health. It’s then that they piece their
lives back together.
makes for excellent story telling, but politics isn’t fiction. It’s
about fusing together policy based on reality. And as has happened with
so many other things, the president isn’t helping to lead the nation to
a better future, but enabling its addiction for short-term gain on
behalf of his political party.
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