Bush energy proposals

Bush giving a news conference in the East Room of the White House

Get ready to be spun

Having failed miserably to convince the American people that diverting money from Social Security taxes into personal savings accounts invested in the stock market is the way to solve the Social Security problem, President George W Bush is now taking up another of his favorite hobby horses, energy policy. Tonight he will deign to give another prime-time press conference in an attempt to prod the Senate into passing an energy bill and shore up his dwindling job-approval numbers.

reporters at presidential press conference

Bush tends to treat a press conference as an opportunity to make a speech, and he is expected to make an opening statement tonight of 10-12 minutes. Although the White House PR machine can make news any time it wants, Bush apparently feels his situation is dire enough to once again expose himself to questioning for the first time in over a year.

We already got a preview of W's energy proposals in a speech yesterday to a conference of the Small Business Association. W will say that his proposals are to help with gasoline and electricity prices. This will be spin, for the reality is that his proposals would take years to have any effect and don't address the real problems.

What does W propose?

  • More nuclear power plants — We still don't have a way to dispose of nuclear waste, but let's make some more!
  • More oil refineries, possibly on closed military bases — Even if companies thought there would be a return on the investment, more refining capacity doesn't increase the supply of oil!
  • Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — What ANWR could supply is miniscule compared to what the US needs!
  • More terminals to import liquified natural gas — How about in Kennebunkport?

W will talk about needing to "reduce the regulatory burden" and "cut through bureaucratic red-tape" and "provide incentives." This is really Bush-speak for "give energy companies what they want" and "trash the environment."

This is not a serious energy strategy. It's just warmed over proposals from Cheney and his secret energy task force. For the most part they are just way to increase the capacity of America's energy feeding tube while enriching the energy companies.

US use of oil
US oil consumption. Data for first 10 months of 2004. Source: US Dept of Energy

A real energy strategy would address the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge: The United States consumes far more energy than any other country, and most of that energy comes from oil. Furthermore, most of that oil goes to making gasoline to power cars and light trucks.

To make matters worse, far too many of those cars look like this:

Hummer

Any serious attempt to address the energy problem has to look for ways to reduce the amount of oil used for gasoline. C'mon, soccer moms don't need an SUV to drive the kids to school; dads don't need a pickup truck to drive to work. If W really wants to be bold about solving this problem, he would offer proposals like this:

  • Immediately impose a tax of at least 50¢ per gallon on gasoline
  • Make light trucks and SUVs subject to the same mileage requirements as cars
  • Require manufacturers to increase fleet mileage by at least 20% within five years
  • Make license fees proportional to vehicle weight
  • Set a goal of at least 20% hybrid cars and trucks by 2010
Tony Auth cartoon
Tony Auth (Click picture to enlarge)

But don't expect to hear anything so radical as that from W when he strides to the lecturn tonight. W will only be bold when it benefits his base — big business and religious fundamentalists.