Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pusher Logic

There were some gems in the president's Monday press conference (full text here). One exchange:
Q Thanks. Mr. President, what do you say to people who are losing patience with gas prices at $3 a gallon? And how much of a political price do you think you're paying for that right now?

THE PRESIDENT: I've been talking about gas prices ever since they got high, starting with this -- look, I understand gas prices are like a hidden tax. Not a hidden tax, it's a tax -- it's taking money out of people's pockets. I know that. All the more reason for us to diversify away from crude oil. That's not going to happen overnight. We passed law that encouraged consumption through different purchasing habits, like hybrid vehicles -- you buy a hybrid, you get a tax credit. We've encouraged the spread of ethanol as an alternative to crude oil. We have asked for Congress to pass regulatory relief so we can build more refineries to increase the supply of gasoline, hopefully taking the pressure off of price.

And so the strategy is to recognize that dependency upon crude oil is -- in a global market affects us economically here at home, and therefore, we need to diversify away as quickly as possible.
In addition to the rich and unintentionally honest slip---he's "been talking about gas prices ever since they got high," the belated concern being one reason they "got high" in the first place---the president answered the question by emphasizing the urgent, overarching need to diversify away from crude oil. How? By offering tax credits on the purchase of hybrids, encouraging the use of ethanol, and spending years building costly and long-term refinery infrastructure "hopefully" to increase the supply and lower the cost of gasoline. Cheaper gas, you see, will play an important role in encouraging Americans to use alternative...err, never mind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good catch on the "been talking ever since" slip.

8/22/2006 11:49 AM  
Anonymous semper fubar said...

Really? "It's a tax"?? Well in that case, I can't wait for Exxon Mobil and Chevron and BP to start using those "tax dollars" they've taken from me to build roads, schools and libraries here. Hey, maybe they could use that "tax revenue" to fund medicare. Or, even better, fund a universal health care system that covers all Americans! And then, they can use what's left over to reduce our deficit!

As for the rest of it, Bush is just a friggin moron. And worse, he thinks all of us are too.

8/22/2006 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we still getting a 25 grand write off for buying a Hummer?


8/22/2006 12:38 PM  
Anonymous kilfarsnar said...

Thanks Semper Fubar, for pointing that out. It drives me nuts to hear people talk as if taxes cause money to fly out of our pockets, never to be seen again. I know the Right wants to make people think that, so this serves their short term goals. But high gas prices are certainly not a tax. An organized, industrialized society costs money to maintain. You would think these pro-business types would have more appreciation for the cost of doing business.

8/22/2006 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Kevin Wohlmut said...

Yet again TCR's keen eye sifts through mounds of defensive rhetorical bullsh·t and hits the mark unerringly. Thank you for wading through Bush's speech so that we don't have to...

Your comment that "the belated concern being one reason [gas prices] 'got high' in the first place" seems to assume that Bush actually wants to change the situation of high gas prices and massive oil profits. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I think that assumption is controversial enough to actually require some corroborating proof. One could well argue that the Bush Administration cares little about the former so long as the latter obtains. [Remember, these guys believe in 'trickle-down': they think that, once the oil companies make 'enough' money, the companies will look for ways to make gasoline cheaper, and then lower prices and cut off their own source of profit.] I think you could argue that every step the Bush Administration has taken is designed to protect the latter, regardless of the consequences to the former.

But you're exactly right. When Bush mentioned in his S. of the U. that America was "addicted" to oil, he neglected to mention that he [and his Administration] is one of the people making sure we stay that way.

Pusher logic indeed: the oil companies, the suppliers, think, "We're making a product that people want, it's not my fault they're making me rich in the bargain"; the government, the pusher, thinks "We're merely facilitating a service which our constituents want", and the customers/victims think "There isn't any other way to get my fix". Without some kind of moral leadership from the government, and in the absence of some kind of intervention or disaster -- then under the amoral capitalist system, this cycle will not be broken.

If the government feels that its job is _not_ to provide guidance or direction to the country, but merely to facilitate business, then the people don't run the country; CEOs, such as until recently Ken Lay, do. And petroleum is highly profitable, and it will just get more and more profitable as it gets scarcer and harder (politically as well as geologically) to obtain.

Does Bush want this situation to continue? He has, finally, adopted the 30-year-old rhetoric of the environmental movement, that America is addicted to oil. But most of the steps he takes to fight that addiction seem to resemble the gaffe at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory: They were facing layoffs due to a $32 Million budget cut, more than 11% of their budget, but Bush restored $5 Million the weekend before he gave a speech at the lab, just so that he wouldn't be surrounded by empty desks gathering dust. "The $5 million stopped the bodies from going out the door, but it
doesn't provide the money for the (renewable energy) programs

In 2005, people praised the increase in energy-efficiency aid for the poor, but criticized the cuts in renewable research such as solar. In 2007, renewable research, such as solar, is augmented, but energy-efficiency aid to the poor is slashed. For years now, he has played one off against the other. In this manner, the Bush Administration manages to keep both these potential threats to oil company profits -- renewables and efficiency -- down to about half the money that a sane Administration, one interested in the welfare of its citizens, would spend.

His 2006 budget cut $4.4 Billion from these programs. Then he boasts that his 2007 budget "raises" the Energy Efficiency and Renewable budget by $2.6 Million, that's million with an "M", over 2006 levels... an annual increase of 0.2% (remember that inflation is hovering around 4.0 - 5.0% these days, once you exclude horrifically expensive things that nobody uses, such as, say, energy). We should be spending TENS OF BILLIONS to kick this combined national security, economic, environmental, and energy problem.

But the pusher doesn't want to see his clients kick that habit.

8/22/2006 1:13 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...


8/22/2006 2:49 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

God damn the pusher man!

8/22/2006 3:23 PM  
Blogger FRx said...

Admitting we are addicted to oil strikes me as a clever Rove-ian maneuver:

the effect of W uttering those words disarms legions of critics in the media ("Hey, the President already acknowledged 'we're addicted to oil', [insert change of subject]...").

Meanwhile, nothing is done.

Frankly, I watch W lately and feel like he just wants to run out the clock and get the hell outta Washington.

8/22/2006 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

Odd that he didn't go into how the markets have been 'spooked' as a result of several military invasions in the Middle East thereby creating a new price floor for refined product at the pump yielding billions in profits every single month since March of 2003.

Was the omission of the huge margins in the refining and distribution activities of the domestic oil companies (relative to producer prices) merely an oversight?

What about how some trading companies made a run on the electricity and natural gas markets on the West Coast back in the 'good old' days prior to 9/11?

Was that how everything 'got high'

8/22/2006 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just waiting for bolty to impose sanctions or nuke one of the (islamofascist) larger oil/gas producers soon...then there could be some (more) fireworks...yeeehaaa

8/22/2006 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A day late, and a dollar short basically describes this presidency, unfortunately.

But what I've read and heard is that Bush lacks intellectual curiosity which is required to be a critical thinker and have forethought.

8/23/2006 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hedley, have a look at how article 1 section 5 of your favourite docuement could be applied to avoid a mexican mess in november...


8/29/2006 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

Good catch.


8/30/2006 3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heds, if you see this and it interests you, watch russia and stuff going on there like a hawk...


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they're getting more assertive/ firm with their foreign policy...it may take a long time for actual nastiness to start but think it is important to watch coz have a feeling that the history books of the future may not contain a true picture of events leading to nastiness...and we must try to see it as best we can...even if we are mistaken here and there...




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