By Evelyn Pringle
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
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,"
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
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