June 18, 2008

Bush Dusts off Reagan's Energy Script, for McCain

After the American Century

In my last Blog I recalled the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan on energy in the 1980 campaign. No sooner had I published it than the Republicans began to talk just like Reagan did at that time. Back then the oil crisis apparently made it necessary to drill for Alaskan oil. The hue and cry was that the whole energy crisis was caused by over-zealous bureaucrats cheered on by environmentalists. It worked for the Republicans then. The public preferred to hear not that the shortages were real but that the US had lots of its own oil.

So the Republicans will try to blame the Democrats for the oil shortage! Not Detroit automakers who made inefficient cars and fought every attempt to raise the mandated minimum mpg (miles per gallon) for their fleets. Not campaign donors who run the oil corporations, who are reporting obscenely large profits. Not the Saudis and OPEC! Not rising demand in Asia. NO! Blame the Democrats.

Ronald Reagan, 1980: "The truth is America has an abundance of energy. But the policies of this administration [President Carter] consistently discouraged its discovery and production."

Until yesterday, McCain opposed off-shore drilling on environmental grounds. Now he is singing from the oil corporation song book. He said yesterday: "We must take control over our own energy future and become once again the master of our fate." Where? In Houston, Texas, the oil capital of the United States. He was talking to oil executives at Bush Family Central. This is the same McCain who last week wanted everyone to believe that he cares about global warming and is much different from G W Bush.

Meanwhile, Obama - correctly - told the press that off shore oil, even if found, drilled for and extracted, would not be available for more than ten years. "Much like his gas tax gimmick that would leave consumers with pennies in savings, opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices would be negligible at best, since America only has 3% of the world's oil. . . .It's another example of short-term political posturing from Washington, not the long-term leadership we need to solve our dependence on oil."

Drilling for off-shore oil will not solve the current problem of higher gas prices, but it will continue the US fixation on oil, and it will make corporate Republicans billions of dollars. Interestingly, a few Republicans from tidewater states, notably California's Arnold Schwartznegger, openly rejected the joint McCain-Bush call for off-shore drilling. Oil spills are bad for tourism, destroy wildlife, and threaten fishing. Oh, and burning oil creates greenhouse gases. But please don't tell Mr. McBush, as he thinks drilling for oil that will not be available for a decade is better than using less oil immediately or leading a determined drive to find alternatives.