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Oil Wars
May 27, 2004
By Evelyn Pringle

During campaign 2000, Bush promised Americans an energy plan that would reduce prices at the pumps. But here we are four years later, saddled with the highest gas prices in US history. Bush's failed energy policies have already cost the average household $500 a year. And even though higher oil prices pose a serious threat to America's overall prosperity, Bush has not lifted one finger to stop the escalating costs.

The Bush-Cheney team now claims to be opposed to higher oil taxes. Well then, to use their favorite term, Cheney sure has flip-flopped since 1986, when he introduced legislation to create a new import tax on oil that would have dramatically raised gas prices and caused 400,000 American workers to be laid off.

On February 3rd, 1987, Kerry and 15 other Senators - from both parties - cosponsored a resolution in opposition to Cheney's bill. In support of that opposition, Republican Senator Heinz cited a study done for the Federal Reserve Bank that showed a $5 per barrel fee could lead to the loss of 400,000 jobs and cause inflation to soar, while Senator Pell pointed out that "An oil import fee would impose heavy new costs on all who use oil and oil products in manufacturing and production. It would also impose higher costs on all who heat their homes with oil or use oil-generated electricity."

By all accounts, those predictions were accurate. According to an article in the New York Times, the Congressional Research Service and staffers from the Senate Energy Committee have since studied the effects of Cheney's bill and found it would have cost consumers $1.2 trillion had it been enacted.

The Bush Campaign refuses to comment on this issue. When specifically asked about Cheney's bill, Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel completely evaded the question by saying: "President Bush and Vice President Cheney want to keep taxes low and keep the economy moving. They have proposed an energy plan that will provide for a stable, affordable and secure energy supply." How's that for a non-answer?

Additionally, according to a May 24, 1999 article in Fortune Magazine, Bush's present Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Gregory Mankiw, supported a 50-cents-a-gallon hike as late as 1999.

Higher oil prices have cost consumers over $25 billion since Bush took office. That money has gone directly into the coffers of oil companies and oil producers, including OPEC. The big three American oil companies, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobile, and ConocoPhillips, have realized profits of $33.6 billion over the past three years.

The public distress over skyrocketing costs translates into enormous profits for Bush, Cheney and all their oil buddies. According to the Wall Street Journal and CNN Money, during the first few months of 2004 top oil companies have seen a gain in profits of close to 40%. For example, ConocoPhillips has made a whopping $1.62 billion so far this year.

While oil related companies are booming, rising energy costs have hurt other American industries. Farmers are now paying $1.3 billion more in annual fuel costs than when Bush took office. This year they will likely spend $7.2 billion on gasoline and diesel fuel for agricultural needs.

The situation is also creating a crisis in the airline industry. Every 1 cent increase in jet fuel costs $180 million a year. Prices are now $.42 a gallon higher than when Bush became president. Increased costs could potentially cost the industry $7.5 billion in 2004.

According to the American Trucking Association, the trucking industry is also experiencing major problems. Truckers use about 30 billion gallons of diesel fuel a year. Every 1 penny hike for fuel adds $300 million a year to operating costs. Since Bush took office, there has been a $0.21 increase per gallon. This will cost the trucking industry approximately $6.3 billion in 2004.

In 2000, Bush claimed he knew how to handle OPEC. He said President Clinton had to "jawbone" OPEC members. "What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots. One reason why the price is so high is because the price of crude oil has been driven up. OPEC has gotten its supply act together, and it's driving the price, like it did in the past. And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the prices," he said.

Well Bush sure is singing a different tune nowadays. On February 10, 2004, OPEC announced its intention to cut its output by 1 million barrels a day. By mid-March, crude oil had reached a 13-year high of $38.18 a barrel. It's now 2 months later, and there has been no "jawboning" by Bush.

In the Democratic weekly radio address, John Kerry pointed out the dangers of the current crisis, "First, soaring energy prices are putting our economy at risk and second, our dependence on Middle East oil is putting our national security at risk," he said.

As part of the solution to this problem, Kerry thinks the US should temporarily divert the oil being used to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and bring it to market to drive down prices. He also believes that our leaders should be making demands on Saudi Arabia, and other major oil producing nations, to increase the supply.

The SPR is the largest stockpile of government-owned crude oil in the world. It provides a powerful response capability should a disruption in oil supplies threaten the US economy. Bush is mismanaging the SPR by diverting oil to fill it, at a time of extraordinary tightness in the market. Kerry would temporarily suspend that process until oil prices return to normal.

Once Kerry takes office, he will immediately pressure OPEC to increase supplies. And he will engage in meaningful diplomacy with OPEC members to ensure that US consumers are not held hostage to their price fixing tactics.

Kerry's long-term strategy for breaking our dependence on foreign oil includes investments in alternative fuels and new technologies that are more fuel efficient. He understands the dilemma we are facing. "We're at war and families are struggling to make ends meet, especially with rising gas prices," Kerry said. "For our security, our economy and our environment, we must make America energy independent."

Kerry believes vehicles can be made cheaper to operate and manufactured more efficiently. He will offer tax incentives to companies who are willing to convert factories to build these vehicles. This plan will not only strengthen the auto industry, it will also create and protect jobs.

Kerry will set a goal to create renewable fuels that will ensure five billion gallons of renewable fuel are part of our supply by 2012. In reference to our troops being forced to protect oil supplies in the Middle East, Kerry says "no young American in uniform ought to ever be held hostage to America's dependence on oil from the Middle East." He refers not only to Iraq but to the entire volatile and unstable region.

The Bush-Cheney TV ad that says Kerry tried to raise gas taxes by 50 cents a gallon is downright dishonest. The truth is, members of the oil-drenched Bush administration are the ones who sought to raise the tax on gasoline in the 80s and 90s. And now in 2004, instead of coming up with a plan to help consumers, the Bush team remains intent on helping oil companies boost profits and keeping America dependent on foreign oil.

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