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August 11, 2008
On Energy, Republicans
Find Ways to Mock Common Sense
Last week, at an Obama rally in the battleground state of
Michigan, we got a glimpse into how things in this country have
degenerated. Outside the arena, Republican volunteers were passing out
tire gauges to mock the Democrats’ suggestion that properly inflated
tires can help people out more than offshore drilling.
Obama’s was a common
sense suggestion, one that promises immediate benefits for people who
heed it. Republicans, naturally, somewhere in there found a reason to
mock. The GOP, reading polls but not the news, had its own plan and
About the same time that
Obama landed in Michigan, House Republicans gathered in a darkened
chamber to protest that they’d been sent on recess without voting on
drilling. They stayed there for most of the week, and have promised to
return this week, railing against Democrats and environmentalists in the
dark in hopes of generating headlines.
Although members of the
protesting Republicans made much of their efforts – comparing it to the
Boston Tea Party at one point – it was chiefly a piece of political
theater. By the end of the week, they were reduced to not only attacking
Nancy Pelosi for not giving them a vote on drilling, but also George W.
Bush for going to Beijing and the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
One shudders to think how history might have turned out if the real
Boston Tea Party had been carried out with that kind of competence.
A thing happened,
however, while the Republicans were pulling stunts in both Lansing and
Washington. The price of crude continued what has been a slide that has
lasted a few weeks. Reaching its peak in early July, some energy
analysts are beginning to think that the price of gasoline, which the
Department of Energy had estimated would stay above $4 into next year,
could fall to $3.25 a gallon by Labor Day.
In some ways, the fall
has been surprising. Political unrest in oil-producing nations helped
prices spike, and continued last week. The world is hardly a more stable
place today than it was a month ago, and fears over supply contractions
helped drive prices up. The question is how much of that spike was
caused by speculation.
Yet, prices fell, and
fell at least in part because of reduced demand. That is, in response to
higher gasoline costs, people have started figuring out ways to reduce
the impact to their home budgets. This is the summer of the staycation.
People are actually, genuinely embracing energy conservation by walking
when possible. Ridership for public transportation is up, and so is
demand for bicycles.
A party genuinely
interested in helping people would look to those things and see how they
could be folded into a long-term solution.
Instead, from the GOP, we
get stunts and political theater. We’ve been hearing for the last
several months that the price of oil is a problem of supply and demand.
True, perhaps, but that means two sides of the equation. There is
increasing supply, and there is reducing demand.
The one – increasing
supply – was never going to help anyone but the oil companies. The
amount of oil in America’s reserves would be a trickle on the worldwide
market, would have negligible impact on U.S. gas prices and might even
wind up being burned in China, India and other economies that threaten
to overtake our own (if this kind of thing concerns you). That it would
take a decade to get to market only exposes it as the shallow sham that
The immediate answer,
pushed quietly by Democrats, was to reduce demand through conservation
and other common sense things. It’s also been the thing that’s provided
the most immediate relief. Who knew that while trying to mock Obama in
Michigan, Republicans were unintentionally handing out tools for
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