What has happened to President Bush?

This morning, the President gave a speech in response to the rising price of gas, and, according to the ‘honorable’ Senator Chucky Schumer, the president was missing 5 words in his speech about gas prices: “get tough on big oil”.

Personally, I think that everyone in the debate (as usual) is missing the gargantuan 2-ton gorilla lurking in the back of the room: the gas tax. The President said in his speech that “the one thing the American people won’t tolerate is manipulation of the market.” What about the government’s manipulation of the market? Should we tolerate that? The people are complaining about the high gas prices. The politicians are blaming the oil industry, saying that they should be investigated and penalized if they are committing illegal price gouging. Now, I believe that this is true: if the oil companies are committing criminal acts, they should be prosecuted for that. But it seems that we go through this every summer: gas prices go up, people complain, politicians shout & investigate, and nothing substantive gets done. Why has nothing been done? Because there is no evidence of price gouging.

It is abundantly true that the oil companies look very, very bad in all of this, especially in light of the fact that Exxon’s chairman just retired with a $400 million retirement package (the fact that they are scapegoated by politicians every time prices go up also lends to the negative image)…but this isn’t as much evidence of price gouging as it is indicative of a larger corporate trend: CEOs across the board are making more and more money relative to the average worker…but that’s a totally different topic. The way these gas prices are, if they were due to price gouging, it would have to be so obvious that the oil companies would have been outed and penalized for it long ago.

The most laughable part of this debate is (no surprises here) Senator Arlen Specter, who has urged the Congress to pass a tax on oil companies. My question is this: just how did this moron get elected? Does he have no sense at all? How will a tax on oil companies fix anything? I can see his (il)logic: oil companies are making profits…so if the government taxes those profits more, the oil companies will endeavor to make less profits. The problem with this argument: the cost of the tax will only be passed on to the consumer, thus amplifying the problem rather than fixing it. The last thing we need is another gas tax…yet it seems that for US liberals, the answer to every problem is higher taxes. Senator Specter, here’s a little tip from our history: if higher taxes really fixed things, the United States would still be a part of the British Empire.

If our politicians were truly serious about doing something to reduce gas prices, they would actually be taking substantive action to do something about it, instead of just complaining about oil companies. It’s easy to blame “big oil” every time gas prices go up, but if you do a little digging into the facts behind gas prices, it doesn’t take long at all to find out that the government is making far more in profits off of gasoline than any oil company. This puts the government in a far better position to do something about gas prices than any oil company.

Another step they could take is to drill for oil in ANWR. This is a step that should have been taken long ago (we’re talking at least 10 years here), but our politicians have continually played to the environmental lobby and blocked any attempt to tap this vital reserve. Now, instead of doing what makes sense: tap a huge reserve that would decrease our dependance on oil from foreign sources (many of which are of questionable loyalty to us), President Bush has said that the government will temporarily stop putting oil into the strategic oil reserve so that more oil will be on the market, (hopefully) lowering prices. Let me point something out: it’s called the strategic oil reserve…yet it seems that every time the President gets into trouble over rising gas prices, he uses it for political purposes (after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush, at the insistence of Congressional Democrats, actually released oil from the reserve in order to assist in bringing prices down). The strategic oil reserve should not be used as a political tool, and the fact that President Bush is doing so yet again is reprehensible.

The final step that the government should be taking is to increase US refining capacity. Many oil companies have wanted to build new refineries, but, like with ANWR, our politicians have bowed to the environmentalists and blocked their attempts. Greater refining capacity would go a long way in increasing the market’s supply and bringing prices down…without compromising our security by draining our strategic reserve.

Basically what it gets down to is that for all of their talk, once again, our politicians are refusing to take real action to diffuse the issue. The government could go a long way in reducing gas prices in three simple steps:

  1. Repeal, or at least drastically reduce the gas tax (an accompanying decrease in government spending would be nice, as well)
  2. Allow drilling in ANWR
  3. Allow an increase in US refining capacity

If this were to be President Bush’s energy policy, I’d definitely be willing to vote Republican in the next election – if he were to throw in some tasty incentives to change over to ethanol or hydrogen, it’d be even better. But unfortunately, it looks like this will be nothing new: our politicians will whine, complain, and investigate, and they might even take some token measures to make it look like they really care…but in the end, nothing substantive will be done…and, once again, the only reason that I don’t regret voting for President Bush in 2004 is because he was running against John Kerry.

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