Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 | Our nation is “addicted to oil,” President Bush had the chutzpah to charge last week, as though his administration hadn’t done more to feed that addiction than any other in history.
Remember the so-called Bush-Cheney “energy plan” and the secret meetings with oil leaders that Bush refused to make public?
Remember the Bush-Cheney opposition to the Kyoto accord aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions?
Remember the Bush-Cheney plan to open up the Alaska wilderness to drilling?
Remember last year’s $14.5 billion energy tax reduction bill that gave 60 percent of its tax breaks to carbon-producing companies and not to companies producing renewable energy?
Recall the Bush administration’s hostility to Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that would compel producers to make more efficient cars, and its opposition to states such as California that mandated their own requirements for greater fuel efficiency?
Recall Bush opposition to increasing the gasoline tax, clearly the smartest way to reduce “addition to oil?”
Recall Bush’s so-called “clear-skies” initiative, the fraudulent plan that was supposed to clear our air even though it excluded the most prevalent form of air pollution, carbon dioxide?
Recall the flap over Bush-Cheney attempts to muzzle James Hansen, the top NASA scientist who’s been speaking about global warming?
“In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen the degree to which the information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now,” Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said recently.
Oh, yes… remember the disastrous war and occupation in Iraq? Might that have something to do with oil?
For four decades, U.S. administrations have pointed out the danger of America’s growing appetite for oil and laid out plans for dealing with it, but no previous administration has been guilty of the hypocrisy that attaches to this one. This is an administration of oilmen, one that for five years has done all it could, at whatever cost, to assure that the oil industry profited at the expense of the public good.
For Bush now to accuse the nation of “oil addiction” is like dope pushers blaming users for dependence on drugs – though pushers would at least have the honesty to make the charge with a smirk.
The explanation for the Bush hypocrisy is simple enough: It isn’t oil addiction that bothers him as much as foreign oil addiction. If all the oil we consume was produced in Texas, you wouldn’t hear a peep about “addiction.”
In that case, the oil industry would own Washington politicians more than it already does. Bush could then hire more oil-industry pseudo-scientists to prove that global warming doesn’t exist and every American family could own a Hummer that gets 10 miles to the gallon as the skies grow dark with foul air.
The problem for Bush is that we are importing oil from nations that hate us. If they hate us a lot, like Iraq, we can invade and occupy under the Bush doctrine. Although that leads to subsidiary problems, as we are now finding out in Iran. Though many Americans don’t want to read about the Iraq war anymore and newspapers like the local one have relegated it to the back pages, Bush’s war continues to feed anti-Americanism around the world, which is why Bush’s concern about “foreign” oil is growing.
Saudi Arabia is locked with us in an oil-for-dollars relationship that is, in economic terms, healthy for both of us. But Bush’s neo-conservatives have long objected to Saudi hostility to Israel and thus would end a healthy economic relationship for political reasons. Iraq was their plan to replace Saudi Arabia as the fulcrum for America’s Middle East energy policy, and look what happened.
The anti-Americanism engendered by Bush’s war has spread far beyond the Middle East. America is no longer the de facto leader of NATO and has lost European trust.
Closer to home in Latin America, Bush policy has turned Venezuela, a major oil producer, against us. The same can be said of Brazil and more recently, Bolivia, which is inspired by Venezuela. Latin America is turning leftward to a degree not seen in years, a phenomenon linked in part to the decline of U.S. influence across the continent and revulsion with Bush politics.
Thirty years ago, in the aftermath of the 1973 Middle East war, Western nations created the International Energy Agency, based at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in Paris. Reacting to the oil embargo of 1973-’74, the International Energy Agency, or IEA was an attempt to create a countervailing power to
the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries by reducing Western dependence on OPEC oil.
In the three decades since the IEA’s creation, the nations of Europe have reduced their oil dependence through emphasis on renewable and alternative energy sources, more efficient cars and high gasoline taxes. In the same period, U.S. dependence on imported oil increased from 50 to 60 percent helping to drive up the world price of oil to 25 times the 1973 level.
America’s oil addiction is a failure of government, and the energy policy of the Bush administration represents the most egregious failure of all. Bush rejected Kyoto, rejected higher fuel-efficiency standards, rejected gasoline taxes, favored the oil industry through tax cuts and took the nation into a wretched war connected to oil. It fostered the addiction, an addiction on which Bush supporters have grown rich.
We know what steps are necessary to reduce oil addition. Other administrations have supported them, and other countries have adopted them. The Bush administration chose another path, one feeding the addiction. For the administration now to pretend otherwise is a sign of its own addiction, not just to oil, but to hypocrisy.
James O. Goldsborough has written on foreign affairs for four decades, both from the United States and abroad, where he worked as a foreign correspondent for The New York Herald Tribune, International Herald Tribune and Newsweek magazine for 14 years, reporting from more than 40 countries.