On Wednesday, President Bush gave a speech imploring Congress to pass the energy legislation that he began proposing almost four years ago. His sense of urgency was again underscored by soaring prices at the nation's gas pumps -- but at least he began to acknowledge that one has little to do with the other.
"I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow," Bush said at a gathering at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington. The legislation he wants passed, he acknowledged, "wouldn't change the price at the pump today -- I know that, and you know that."
We sure do. And we also know that initiatives favored by the Bush White House, like opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, also wouldn't change the price at the pump today, or any other day.
Where was the president's magic wand four years ago? Serious investment in alternative energy sources, in order to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, has never been more than a fairy tale to an administration with more personal ties to Big Oil than any other before it.
Democrats who oppose the Bush-backed bill aren't spinning their wheels when they say it's nothing more than a big fat check to the industry. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland noted that the House's version of the bill would hand the industry $22 billion in tax relief over the next decade. He also cited an Energy Department study that estimated gas prices would actually go up as a result.
"That's right, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer," he said. "Apparently, this Republican majority believes you need to pay more for gasoline."
Republicans in control of the House did not seem especially concerned about such facts and figures. On Thursday afternoon, the bill passed by a vote of 249-183.