With fears mounting that high energy costs will crimp economic growth, President Bush called on Americans yesterday to conserve gasoline by driving less. He also issued a directive for all federal agencies to cut their own energy use and to encourage employees to use public transportation.
"We can all pitch in," Mr. Bush said. "People just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption," he added, and that if Americans are able to avoid going "on a trip that's not essential, that would be helpful."
Mr. Bush promised to dip further into the government's petroleum reserve, if necessary, and to continue relaxing environmental and transportation rules in an effort to get more gasoline flowing.
On Capitol Hill, senior Republicans called for new legislation that they said would lower energy costs by increasing supply and expanding oil refining capacity over the long run.
Even though Hurricane Rita caused much less damage to the oil industry than feared, the two recent hurricanes have disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico enough to ensure that Americans are facing a winter of sharply higher energy costs. The price of natural gas, which most families use to heat their homes, has climbed even more than the price of gasoline recently.
Households are on pace to spend an average of $4,500 on energy this year, up about $500 from last year and $900 more than in 2003, according to Global Insight, a research firm.
Mr. Bush's comments, while similar to remarks he made shortly after the disruption from Hurricane Katrina pushed gasoline prices sharply higher, were particularly notable because the administration has long emphasized new production over conservation. It has also opted not to impose higher mileage standards on automakers.
In 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it cannot be the basis of a sound energy policy." Also that year, Ari Fleischer, then Mr. Bush's press secretary, responded to a question about reducing American energy consumption by saying "that's a big no."
"The president believes that it's an American way of life," Mr. Fleischer said. [Emphasis added -- Ed]
In a post on TPM Cafe, Mark Schmitt writes about Senator Frist's insider trading, which he says is emblematic not only of the contemporary American attitude toward doing business, but also of the way today's Republican party governs:
The central constituency of the modern Republican machine is, broadly speaking, business. Yet there are dozens of policies, passive as well as active, large and small, that are going to be a disaster for American business in the medium- and long-term. Some are disasters for specific companies and sectors, others for business generally: the fiscal debacle, the burden and unpredictability of health care costs, climate change, income inequality, short-sighted energy policies designed only to boost supply, chaos in the Middle East, hostility to the U.S. everywhere, lack of access to higher ed, collapsing infrastructure, etc. Somehow, in a way that would not have been the case in previous decades, business leaders and many investors seem bizarrely unconcerned about these trends.
And why is that? I suspect it's integrally related to the "pump and dump" culture that has infiltrated business, a mutation of the cult of "shareholder value." (Pump and dump refers to the practice of talking up a stock or making earnings appear high, then selling just before the inherent weaknesses in the company become apparent. On the Yahoo! Finance message board discussing HCA, Frist is referred to lovingly as the "Pump and Dump Drama Queen.") Investors as well as executives don't look at a company as something to build for the long term; they need to beat their numbers in the current quarter. And for the most part they assume that by the time things get tough, they'll be out. The insiders will bail out before the suckers; the CEO will move on to some other company. Or, if worst comes to worst, he'll retire with a nice package guaranteeing health care, use of the company plane for life, and a nice package of stock to sell when someone else turns the company around.
And what is our political culture except another version of pump and dump? Everything from war to tax policy to energy policy to the Medicare bill is a short-term effort to boost the president's political stock, with the long-term costs left to some bigger sucker.
I don't consider myself anti-business or anti-corporate. But there's much that's sick about much of American business now, even after the crash, a short-term, short-sighted culture of irresponsibility, exemplified by insiders dumping the stock of their own company and their own family just ahead of bad news. And if that's the culture of business that most strongly influences our politics, then we do need an anti-business politics. But I wish we could find a way to infuse both business and politics with more of a culture of long-term responsibility and honesty.
Clearly, this attitude is related to (or perhaps its better to say a manifestation of) the long standing American get-rich-quick fantasy which pervades our culture, but under the current regime, the counter-vailing forces of hard work, thrift and planning for the future have been radically de-emphasized in favor of short-term benefits.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that conservation of resources and reducing reliance on fossil fuels (foreign and domestic) is, in the long run, not only the best course for the country but, more importantly, the only one that's actually available to us -- if we want our civilization to survive in some semblence of its current form, of course. Every other option is only a short-term fix, which will temporarily maintain the status quo and keep money pouring into the coffers of the Energy Industrial Complex and the providers of raw fossil fuels, but cannot guarantee their long-term health, or even their continued existence.
It certainly didn't take an Einstein to see that continuing to rely on selling gas-guzzling SUVs as the mainstay of the American automobile industry was an extremely risky strategy when oil production is barely keeping ahead of oil demand, meaning that any disruption along the supply line, from the oil fields to the refineries to the pump, was going to send the price of gas upward, perhaps permanently so, which will lead to reduced demand for inefficient cars, which will seriously undermine the economic basis of the industry. It didn't have to be two major hurricanes striking the Gulf -- there are any number of other events which could have had a similar effect, because the delicacy of the current balance makes the entire system inherently unstable.
At this point, visionaries aren't needed, because they've already done their work and presented us with the facts of the situation and the requisite long-term solutions. All it takes is people willing to deal with those facts and those solutions in a "reality-based" manner, and other people willing to look more than two inches past their own noses to do the right thing, to make decisions not on the basis of what will provide the most immediate gain, but on what will be best, for everyone, in the long term.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.