How to politicize gas prices

Press conference kung fu -- Republicans: We need more gas! Democrats: We need to use less!

By Andrew Leonard
June 15, 2007 1:27AM (UTC)
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The politics of energy policy, made easy:

Republicans: Produce more! Democrats: Consume less!

In the midst of massive Congressional bickering over new energy legislation, Senate Republicans and Democrats held dueling press conferences on Thursday. Whoever thinks the two parties occupy different sides of the same energy lobbyist coin should take a closer look.


The Republican conference was kicked off by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who lamented the defeat of his amendment that would have boosted refinery production of gasoline by "streamlining" environmental regulations. For Republicans, the dream appears to be that we can return to the golden days of cheap gas by just obtaining more of it, even it means trampling on long cherished foreign policy, like the Cuban trade embargo. Idaho Republican Larry Craig, who has introduced legislation that would exempt American oil companies from the embargo so that they would be eligible to exploit potentially significant oil fields in Cuban territorial waters, sounded distressed that countries such as Vietnam, -- Vietnam! -- had acquired leases to Cuban development blocks. "But we can't go there as a country, and therefore that isn't ours," said Craig. "And that simply ought not happen."

Meanwhile, the Democrats were all about compact fluorescent lightbulbs and EnergyStar appliances and CAFE standards. New York Senator Chuck Schumer touted a new Joint Economic Committee report detailing the average savings an American family could expect from converting to energy efficient appliances and fuel efficient cars.

The wily Schumer even managed to make energy efficiency into a class issue: "Money is agglomerating to the top," he said, noting that "the top 1 percent of highest income get 22 percent of [all] the income." But beefing up energy efficiency requirements will help "middle class people get by with fewer expenses."


The wealth distribution jab qualifies as some nice partisan jujitsu, but the award for the most overt political slam has to go to Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, who noted that "gas prices have escalated significantly since the new majority has taken over."

Whoa! Can you smell the desperation? Inhofe would like us to believe that come 2008, voters will remember the Democrats who voted against his refinery amendment. Judging by the Republican Party's current poll numbers, it seems a bit more likely they'll still be savoring their memories of which party controlled all three branches of government from 2000-2006.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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