George Bush won’t ask Congress for permission for torture or domestic spying. But when it comes to energy policy – he is very, very concerned about the limits of his presidential powers.
According to The Washington Post, he “renewed his call for Congress to give him the authority to ‘raise’ mileage standards for all passenger cars.” Then perhaps signaling a nod and a wink to his Big Oil friends, “White House officials said later, however, that they didn’t know when or how the president would use that authority.”
Meanwhile, the GOP Congress is scrambling to flex some 11th hour Election Year muscle of its own by reviewing oil company tax returns and “reaffirming authority for state and federal officials to fight price gouging.”
No surprise that they are also attempting to exploit an increasingly squeezed middle-class by once again calling for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under the false pretense that it will provide economic relief at the gas pump. The truth, as the US Geological Service estimates, is that ANWR drilling would likely produce a total amount insufficient to fill the need for even one year of US domestic consumption and it wouldn’t even hit the market for 10 years!
President Bush, too, offered his own rendition of Johnny Law in pursuit of any evildoer oil companies: “We’ll make sure that the energy companies are pricing their product fairly. If we catch them gouging, if we catch them — unfair trade practices, we’ll deal with them at the federal government. That’s what you expect the federal government to do.”
Indeed, many citizens and Democrats have been asking -– if not expecting -– the formerly well-oiled, oil-friendly White House to do that for quite some time. Senators Maria Cantwell, Jeff Bingaman, and Bill Nelson all introduced legislation that would have cracked down on price gouging, as has Rep. Bart Stupak and even Republican Rep. Heather Wilson. In fact, lawmakers have repeatedly called on Bush over the past year to investigate and punish price gouging. But Oil man Bush–head of an administration loaded with ex-oil and gas executives– is just walking the walk. If he actually talked the talk he’d be calling for subpoenas and public testimony from his oil industry cronies; he’d be calling for an all-out investigation of the industry’s pricing practices– from the wells to the gas pumps.
Even if the GOP does finally crack down on price manipulation, greed and collusion in the oil industry (while also pursuing more drilling and a roll-back of environmental protections) as a result of the public’s “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore” outrage – there is a more important long-range issue: when will we unite around a sane policy to achieve real and lasting energy independence for our nation?