I listened to Bush's press conference last night with a growing sense of frustration and irritation. Does the man know nothing? Is he unable to see how his own policies have accelerated us to the crisis we now face? Or is he just a sociopath like Clinton, able to say whatever serves his immediate purpose with all apparent sincerity? Regardless, what he said wasn't right; to the extent that it wasn't irrelevant, it was some of the worst political posturing I've listened to since Clinton's talk about firearms and interns.
One comment that really got to me was Bush's anecdote of the soldier who asked him to lower the price of gasoline. Bush's response was that this was beyond his abilities. Well, of course it is... now. But was it always? Had I been there and able to interrupt, I would have had to ask "Mr. President, the high price of gasoline is due to high world demand for oil and an excess of gasoline demand over refining capacity in the USA. We used to have programs to do something about that. But didn't you cancel the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, and didn't you sign tax breaks which encouraged people to buy gas-guzzling trucks for business use whether they needed them or not?"
Among Bush's first acts in office, he cancelled a program which was ready to produce highly economical vehicles in the very near term; he substituted a hydrogen-vehicle program which is still unlikely to yield products before 2015 and will require tens or hundreds of billions in new infrastructure to support. The first-year tax writeoff for vehicles over 6500 pounds used in a business helped to run up gasoline demand, creating windfall profits for gasoline refiners. He also funneled a bunch of research money to the auto companies for the long term.
Was it worth it? Here's what we lost:
We should be so much further along than we are. PNGV vehicles like the Daimler-Chrysler ESX3 were delivering 72 MPG back in 2000. The diesel engines might not have met new EPA NOx standards, but so what? Even if they had to be powered with gasoline engines and some of the more expensive technologies had to be left off, it is hard to see how the ESX3 and its like could have achieved less than 50 MPG. With the addition of removable battery packs, such cars could have operated entirely on grid power for short trips while maintaining their cargo capacity and highway fuel economy; experiments with the Toyota Prius have shown that this can be done by dedicated amateurs. But they've got to buy Japanese cars to do it, because Bush decided that his predecessor's program wasn't politic.
Bush's idea of an energy policy seems to be to:
Bush ought to have expertise in the oil business. He ought to have seen all of this coming; he certainly knew the right people to ask for advice (and if he didn't, Cheney did). He should have known what programs should have been kept on the back burner for the sake of the nation and our domestic industries. He was only too happy to use largesse (e.g. tariff barriers on steel) to buy votes, but he could have made it go much farther with some statesmanlike vision.
We didn't get it. What we got instead appears to be programs designed for the benefit of a favored investor/CEO class and the very foreign oil interests who are waging religious war against us.
This isn't leadership. Neither is it patriotism. And when the American people figure this out (probably about the time the Democrats break with the forces of P.C. and get serious about national security), there's going to be some mighty big scores settled in Washington.
Either that, or the USA becomes one more banana republic.
 Ethanol from corn appears to be a loss, energy-wise. A recent paper claims that it's bad for just about everything it touches. Corn (maize) is planted, cultivated, sprayed and harvested with petroleum products, fertilized with nitrogen fixed using natural gas, and the ethanol product is distilled using more natural gas or petroleum-derived propane. This does nothing for our security; due to the cost of natural gas, even our nitrogen fertilizer is now imported. The only purpose served by these subsidies is to transfer taxpayer dollars to the pockets of those chemical producers and agribusiness interests like ADM, with a little trickling down to the farmers almost by accident. If Bush wanted to cut the price of gasoline, he could push to eliminate the use of ethanol in gasoline and pay farmers to idle some of their acreage instead; all the fuel the farmers are using on that idled land would make motorists happier. And that could be done in time for this year.
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