Friday, March 7, 2008

Open Spigots

Remember when having a president with ties to the Saudi Royal Family was supposed to be a good thing? Remember this?
Gov. George W. Bush of Texas said today that if he was president, he would bring down gasoline prices through sheer force of personality, by creating enough political good will with oil-producing nations that they would increase their supply of crude.

''I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply,'' Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, told reporters here today. ''Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot.''

How’s that working for y’all? How's Mr. Personality doing keeping gas prices low? Not so good, huh? Seven years and two wars later:

OPEC on Wednesday rebuffed calls from President Bush to increase oil output, instead citing “mismanagement” of the American economy as a major factor driving prices up.

Record prices are suddenly creating the sharpest tensions in years between the oil cartel and the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer. Two days after the president called for more oil on the global market, OPEC members, meeting in Vienna, chose to leave their production levels unchanged, declaring that the market has plenty of oil already.

The cartel’s president blamed financial speculators and American economic problems, which have helped lower the value of the dollar, for the high oil prices. After the meeting, oil prices settled above $104 a barrel, a record.

While it’s true that everything President Bush touches turns to shit, I don’t entirely blame him for this one. It’s entirely possible that OPEC can’t raise production because they’re already operating at peak capacity. OPEC admitted as much in December 2006. We’re talking blood and turnips here, people.

Still, it’s a little ridiculous that our Administration has failed to anticipate this turn of events. And for this, I blame the Republican Party.

Democrats saw this coming 30 years ago. Jimmy Carter saw it coming, Read his brilliant speech from July 15, 1979:

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

[ ... ]

To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun.

I propose the creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation I will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America's energy security.

Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.

Sigh. Read the whole thing. It’s really sad that Ronald Reagan dismantled this vision. He removed the solar panels from the White House roof and decided this country didn’t need energy independence, that conservation was for sissies. The Reagan Revolution chose the path of self-interest, the path of constant conflict and narrow interests. They chose the certain route to failure.

And here we are, 30 years later, with gas prices hitting a new record, beating the last record from 1981.

I guess no one -- or rather, almost no one -- could have anticipated this.