George W. Bush: the Environment President
Gas Price, national average: $2.93. Month ago: $2.50. Year ago: $2.23.The incredible rise of gas prices demonstrates the political truth about perceptions. We have in office an oil man whose second in command is an oil man (you may arrange Bush and Cheney in the order you prefer). The Secretary of State is an oil woman. The Congress is run by oil(y) Republicans who have been well-financed by big oil (John Boehner, who replaces very oily Tom DeLay, has some work to do, but give him time). Washington is geared to ensure that ExxonMobil have capacious SUV tanks unfettered by CAFE standards or other silly regulations. And of course, Americans are well aware of all this.
When gas prices were a couple bucks a gallon, this didn't seem like such a bad thing. Americans may even have been lulled into the spin that oilmen would look out for them and keep prices low. But when gas prices spike fifty cents in a month, Americans are reminded of the oilmen-in-chief, and they immediately smell collusion. Americans are all about a little profiteering, but gluttony is unseemly, and now that it costs $150 to fill up the Hummer, someone's gotta pay.
All things being equal, if John Kerry, who had a perfect 100% environmental record as a Senator, were president now, we'd probably still see gas prices spiking. He'd probably be blamed in part for that, too, but in the manner of Jimmy Carter--as a weak-kneed liberal who can't face down the tough-as-nails free market. But Bush looks like a creep who's shafting Americans, and there will be a price to pay.
NPR ran a story that will probably be common in the coming weeks: a day-in-the life piece about how Americans can't afford gas, and so they're having to give up their Silverados or their kids' hockey teams. With Bush and the oilies at the helm, folks will more quickly assume the worst and begin to change their habits--after all, who's Washington gonna look out for, them or Exxon?
And Bush is culpable in a larger sense: he's ignored global warming, mocked international efforts to curb greenhouse gases, made it easier for factories to pollute, protected the free-for-all in SUV CAFE standards, given tax breaks for SUVs, and generally made it very clear that he thinks there's nothing wrong with turning the whole world into a Crawford-like wasteland.
If anything can spur Americans to get scared, it's these idiots. Having been weaned on a diet of governmental mistrust, they're poised to look at gas prices and see bigger trends. It's possible, then, that Bush may prod America into becoming a greener country than any goodie goodie liberal.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais. Caption: House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Ill., center, gets out of a Hydrogen Alternative Fueled automobile, left, as he prepares to board his SUV, which uses gasoline, after holding a new conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive back the few block back to the U.S. Capitol.