The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

He's joking, right?

According to AP:

"President Bush, in a push to take charge of the election-year agenda, is expected to say Tuesday that "America is addicted to oil" and must break its dependence on foreign suppliers in unstable parts of the world."

Umm, yeah? You think? This is like Dracula saying vampires need to break their dependence on blood. In other words, complete bullshit.

President Bush, phone for you. Yes, it's Exxon. They wanted you to know they got the joke.


  • At 6:05 AM, Blogger Dennis said…

    I don’t think energy addiction is very funny at all Brian, and the last I heard I thought Democrats did not either. I thought you cared that energy prices have gone sky high, and that the average American is suffering. But the best you offer, which surprises me given your usual balanced and thoughtful posts, is a cheap joke at President Bush.

    Clearly, you don’t want to talk about his proposal to raise Ethanol usage, or even Tony Blair’s proposal for his own country to resort to more nuclear power. Clearly, you don’t even want to be talking about fuel cells or more hybrid cars.

    In Frum’s “The Right Man,” he documents a conversation he had with Bush about energy. When Bush asked him what we needed, Frum suggested cheap oil. Bush responded with something to the effect of, “no, that’s how we got into this mess.” And he’s right. America does have an addiction to oil, and the world doesn’t have enough to quench our addition. We need to invest heavily, then, in ways to both make usage more efficient and to find alternative and renewable sources to make up for rising demand.

    You, my friend, might find America's oil addiction funny. I find it to be a more sobering matter personally.

  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger Keith said…


    Perhaps just as disturbing is the way he framed his comment.

    1) The Middle East is an unstable part of the world.
    2) We must stop accepting oil from them.
    3) However, we would like to build democracies there.

    Conflicting language is quite damaging to our credibility and our desire for change; but worse than this - it is not even true. American dependence on oil is as much of a boardroom question as it is a made in the living room. It calls for a radical change in our culture and society that is not forseeable. Ethanol is not a good and effective option, and even if we use grass and other non-productive crops we will have to consider the side effects to grazing.

    Which returns to the issue: how do you make democracies out of nations that export only one major product, and then threaten to quite your dependence on the product. As the largest consumer, it certainly would be a shock to the oil market. All in all Bush's speech just reminded me of a lot of ideas not well planned out and in many ways contrarian. Can we have CAFTA and higher border security? A temporary worker program is a disgusting measure that 20 years ago Congress launched an investigation and said that it would be an appalling system that would create a double standard in America and produce 2nd class inhabitants with less rights.

    Contradictory ideas are not visionary - it is just bad thinking.

    So in a way, it is quite comical.

    Oh, does Tony Blair hope to use Nuclear Power to run cars?

  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Dennis- your sense of humor deserts you, my friend. Plus you missed the entire point of the post. My short jab was a commentary on the Bush (and Republican) record on energy; it had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the future, only the past.

    My cheap joke comes at the expense of the hypocrisy of people who talk the talk but rarely walk the walk.

  • At 12:02 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Dennis- a more substantive criticism of Bush's call can be found on Slate, where Weisberg says:

    "Setting a broad goal of energy independence was the signature of Bush's speech. Declaring, in the evening's most quotable line, that, "America is addicted to oil," he proposed reducing America's importation of oil from the Middle East by 75 percent over 20 years and making ethanol-burning cars economically viable within six years. For a former oilman who is often accused of favoring his old industry, these were at least arresting proclamations. Exxon and Halliburton are not the likely winners in a large-scale conversion to nuclear power and veggie gas.

    But as he dipped into specifics, the president revealed both the muddle of his thinking and a level of insincerity. In the speech's key passage on energy, Bush indicated three goals: cheaper fuel, independence from Middle East crude, and environmental improvement.

    Like most objectives, these involve choices, trade-offs, and sacrifices, all of which the president seems incapable of acknowledging. Cheap fuel is good for the economy but bad for the environment. Expensive fuel is better for the planet but also good for the totalitarians in Saudi Arabia. Replacing Arab oil with democratic oil or domestic oil won't change the Middle East, because it won't significantly affect the market price so long as overall consumption continues to rise. Conservation measures like fuel-economy standards and dedicated taxes can plausibly serve all three of his objectives, but Bush has a quasi-religious aversion to conservation and taxes and didn't so much as refer to either. Another missing term was global warming, or even the White House's preferred euphemism of "climate change." By continuing to pretend that this issue doesn't exist, Bush deprives himself of perhaps his most powerful argument for kicking oil addiction.

    Instead, Bush put his faith in technology, emphasizing in particular "cellulosic ethanol," which would use not just corn kernels but husks and stalks as well. This is well-meaning fantasy. Ethanol has already spent several decades as an agribusiness boondoggle of dubious environment benefit; critics contend that it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the ethanol contains, and no one would use it if not for massive subsidies. Brazil has had success with a more efficient type of ethanol made from sugar cane. But in a speech filled with denunciations of protectionism in the abstract, Bush was silent about the 50-cent-a-gallon tariff that keeps Brazilian ethanol off the American market—a concrete instance in which domestic politics prevents the use of a cleaner, OPEC-diminishing fuel.


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