"Addicted to oil"? You take that back, son!

Bush takes heat from the right for daring to suggest that Americans need to break the habit.

Published February 1, 2006 5:15PM (EST)

The president is getting mixed reviews for his State of the Union address. According to a Gallup poll released this morning, 75 percent of the people who watched George W. Bush speak Tuesday night said they came away with a "very positive" or "somewhat positive" reaction. It sounds like a good number, except when you notice that Republican viewers outnumbered Democrats by a margin of 2-to-1, and that -- even so -- the poll results for this State of the Union address were the lowest Bush has ever received.

Democrats in Washington are taking their shots -- John Kerry said Bush described a "fantasyland" rather than the actual union in which most Americans live -- but the harshest reaction yet may be the one from some of the president's allies on the right. It seems that all that talk about an "addiction" to oil didn't play so well with the friends of the petroleum industry; the pro-business, anti-regulation Competitive Enterprise Institute has just released a press release in which it savages Bush for daring to say that America ought to ease up on its use of oil.

"The president's dangerous rhetoric that we are addicted to oil is an indication that the administration is addicted to confused thinking about energy policies," says Myron Ebell, director of energy policy for CEI. "As bad as the policies proposed by President Bush are, the addiction rhetoric is much worse. President Bush might as well have said, 'We're addicted to prosperity, comfort, and mobility, and I've got the policies to do something about it.'"

The CEI says it's time for Bush to get back to dancing with the ones who brung him. "The goals and methods the president announced in his State of the Union address will be hindrances and obstacles to creating a bright energy future for American consumers," Ebell says. "They will interfere with the working of the market that provides incentives for increasing supplies and for technological innovations. In taking these steps in the wrong direction, President Bush also seems to have forgotten the positive energy policies that he has promoted in the past. These include removing the political and legal obstacles to exploiting America's vast conventional energy resources, such as opening portions of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas development."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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