Congressional Republicans' new tactic for staving off electoral disaster in November is full of gas. In fact, it might be ONLY gas.
Republicans are banging Democrats for doing nothing but investigating price gouging and talking about a windfall profits tax when, low and behold, we can drill off-shore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) and apparently get gas down to $1.15 tomorrow!!!
I’ve written about this issue before, but now I’m furious because, this tactic is working, which means my fellow citizens are so very short-sided when they're desperate.
If we start drilling now, there will be NO results for YEARS, but it will allow Republicans to claim some kind of moral victory while giving the impression that the urgency is gone. We need the urgency of high gas prices to stir a REAL solution such as: (1) developing alternatives in solar and wind power; (2) developing alternatives in grain-based fuels; (3) improving fuel efficiency in our cars; (4) giving tax incentives for hybrids; (5) giving incentives for public transportation; and (6) encouraging people to live in the same freakin' county where they work, which might have the ancillary benefit of stopping suburban sprawl.
I’m not speaking about all Republicans, but for some, their arrogant addiction to excess, which is best illustrated in the oil discussion, is maddening. Some British-sounding bloke sitting in for Rush Limbaugh the other day was again attacking Obama for his comment that we all can’t drive SUVs and have our thermostats set at 72 degrees. Some conservatives have spun this as Obama trying to regulate everything you do. Nonsense. Obama was simply saying that, to lead globally on energy conservation, you have to, ya know, CONSERVE ENERGY! But this chap found that notion outrageous. He actually said when a man drives an SUV that is so huge, his neighbor thinks there is an eclipse when it passes, that's America. He went on to say that it's American when the man wants to run his AC on full-blast with his SUV windows down. (Interesting choice of male gender only, by the way).
And people wonder why America is hated across the globe. Of course, these same conservatives will yell at me for even CARING that we’re hated. In fact, if there is a bumper sticker that best typifies how some conservatives feel about the world citizenry (as well as a good number of their fellow Americans who don’t have the luxury of driving cars that get 2 miles per gallon) it’s this: “F--- ‘em!”
But let’s get past the bombast and ask this practical question. If we start drilling offshore and in the ANWR, how does that break our dependency from foreign oil? Exactly.
Yes, I know, my party is hardly above such tactics, but this one is particularly cynical and foolhardy because it won't even work. The increased industrialization of the world means demand will continue to rise at a rate that keeps the price today right where it is. This is a short-term-fix, except for the fix part.
If we REALLY want to save money RIGHT NOW, tell George Bush to release half the oil in the strategic reserve on bid to America's oil companies. That would give us an IMMEDIATE savings because that’s the only oil in the American terrority that is available RIGHT NOW. But will Republicans get that done? Of course not. Because, as intellectually-challenged as President Bush is, he HAS seen Mad Max. President Bush knows we can't be trusted to control ourselves, and only by hoarding this gas can he keep us all from wearing football shoulder pads, riding around in jeeps, and killing each other with crossbows.
But I’m not convinced that an investigation won't do what we want. Republicans hate government putting its big old nose under the books of oil companies, but if you look back to the Clinton health care debacle in 1994, you’ll remember that, as miserably-executed as that effort was, it led a bunch of terrified insurance companies and healthcare providers to reform. Without cost controls, these entities knew they were going to fall under the government yoke, and let me tell ya, that’s a terrifying prospect for any business.
Some businesses do outpace the government in achieving socially beneficial results. In fact, in MOST cases, the incentive was found by business, not government. But usually this is done by one maverick company in an industry that achieves a market gain which the others must follow for pragmatic, not moral, reasons. That’s the market. But I don't see any innovations for Big Oil. Do you?
Also, I keep coming back to record oil company profits. Someone explain this to me, please. Oil Company A makes 10 billion in year one. In year two, the price of crude oil goes up 2 billion, which makes the cost of that creating that gas go up 2 billion. But the oil company profits go up by 4 billion. How is this possible? If the company simply passes on the cost increases ONLY, wouldn’t the profits stay the same? But they don’t. Curiously, they continue to grow.
CNN argues that we should look on the positive side of oil industry profits. Big oil has been largely immune from layoffs, and the industry’s workforce has seen real wages gain. Of course, it has! But they get it by hosing the rest of us. (If I worked for an oil company, I'd be loving life! Can you imagine what your retirement looks like when it's funded by all oil stocks?!?)
A strong investigation into potential oil industry collusion will bring oil industry profit margins down to 8 percent, like the rest of the S&P. Seriously, how is it that 95% of gas stations in Indianapolis have the exact same daily price? Where is this alleged competition?
I’m sorry. I'm done. My head is about to explode. I feel like Lewis Black.
Don’t buy this “quick drill with no refill” hype from your Republican Congressional candidates. You want to do something meaningful? Read what T. Boone Pickens is saying. Sure, he wants to drill everywhere, too, and he's a NIMBY hypocrite, but his emphasis first on alternative fuels is a strategy you aren’t hearing from Republicans. And when a lifetime oil man says America is getting screwed by big oil, trust me, folks....he KNOWS what he's talking about.