George Bush: Foreign Policy from God, Energy Policy from Big Oil

The president may turn to God when it comes to shaping his foreign policy, but his energy policy is strictly courtesy of the Men Upstairs at Big Oil.

Which is why it is beyond comical to watch Moe, Curly, and Larry -- sorry, I mean Bush, Hastert, and Frist -- getting all blue in the face about skyrocketing gas prices, and calling on the Energy and Justice Departments to look into possible market manipulation by oil companies.

It's the least believable call for an investigation since O.J. set out to find the real killers.

For those of you experiencing a sudden wave of déjà vu, yes, the GOP demand for a federal probe of potential oil industry price-gouging was a carbon copy of the demands Chuck Schumer made last week. Hey, maybe they just unconsciously "internalized" Schumer's words.

If it wasn't so despicable it would be laughable.

There was Frist on Good Morning America today, putting aside his video diagnostic skills to become one of the "Car Talk" guys. Among Frist"s helpful money saving tips for drivers forced to consider taking out a second mortgage in order to fill up their tanks: get a tuneup, drive slower, and carpool. Thanks, Dr. Goodwrench!

But Frist was just the gassy second banana. The clear headliner was Bush, who had them rolling in the aisles at a meeting of the Renewable Fuels Association, with zingers like his claim that "large cash flows" mean that "these energy companies don't need unnecessary tax breaks". A sentiment that didn't stop the president from signing a GOP energy bill stuffed with some $14.5 billion in tax breaks, tax subsidies, and tax deductions for his cash-rich energy industry chums. I guess those tax breaks were "necessary."

Bush also scored big with his impression of a guy who cares about conservation, highlighting the need to "promote greater fuel efficiency": "And the easiest way to promote fuel efficiency," said the president, "is to encourage drivers to purchase highly efficient hybrid or clean diesel vehicles." As the proud owner of a pair of hybrids, I say "hear, hear." As a sentient human being I say, "Isn't this the same guy whose administration hasn't increased fuel efficiency standards for passengers cars even a single m.p.g. in six years?" Maybe now that former GM-lobbyist (and fuel efficiency opponent) Andy Card has left the White House, Bush has finally allowed his inner-Prius owner to run free. Or maybe the lure of touting vehicles that can run on alternative energy sources to an alternative energy trade association was just too hard to resist.

How gullible do they think we are? Memo to the White House: it's not working. Bush's approval rating just dropped to 32% -- a number at which both water and political clout freeze.

All this huffing and puffing about manipulated markets and record gas prices scream of a blatant attempt to inoculate Republicans from consumer rage over the massive earnings oil companies are scheduled to announce this week. Industry analysts predict that ExxonMobil will report first-quarter earnings of only $9.1 billion on Thursday -- down from the record $10.7 billion posted in the fourth quarter of 2005. With profits like that, Lee Raymond's $400 retirement package is starting to look a little stingy. Except to those paying through the nose at the pump.

The most honest comment on the gas price crisis came from Scott McClellan (freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose, eh, Scottie?) who said: "This is not something we got into overnight." Exactly. These levels of oil company profits took years of careful lobbying and planning to orchestrate.

Our oil-man president may want us to think that he's shocked, shocked by the "large cash flows" of the oil companies, and the sticker shock drivers are experiencing at the pump, but even before Team Bush was dreaming of toppling Saddam, it was laying the groundwork for the gargantuan windfall the oil industry is seeing -- starting with Dick Cheney's secret Energy Task Force.

It's not a coincidence that the oil and gas industries donated over $25 million to Congressional campaigns in 2004 (with 80% of that money going into Republican coffers), and another $7.2 million so far in the 2006 cycle (with 84% going to the GOP). They also doled out over $4.5 million to Bush's 2000 and 2004 presidential runs.

And what did they get for their largess? According to Public Citizen, the top five oil companies have pocketed over a quarter of trillion (that's with a "T") in profits since Bush took office. Talk about a return on investment. That's a gusher!

So for American consumers, payback is a bitch. And three bucks a gallon at the gas pump. The Bush administration has turned the White House into a full service filling station for Big Oil. And we're the ones being forced to pick up the tab.

So don't let the empty rhetoric and the phony outrage pouring out of the White House and the Republican Congress fool you: America isn't facing a shortage of fuel; it's facing a shortage of leadership.

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