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In Old Europe The Real Problem is Fear Gaseous Politics and Shame

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3 Dollar Gas. An Opportunity

by Christopher Chantrill
April 23, 2006 at 9:38 am

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SOME OBSERVERS think that President Bush’s dismal job approval rating is not about the mess in Iraq. It is not about the shocking corruption of the Republican Congress. It is not even about President Bush’s failure to prevent Hurricane Katrina. It reflects Americans’ rage at $3.00 per gallon gasoline.

How can you pursue happiness in that mammoth Ford Expedition with heated leather seats if your gas bill starts competing with your mortgage payment?

Democrats have suddenly discovered that they are shocked by high gas prices. The New York Times reports that “Democrats running for Congress are moving quickly to use the most recent surge in oil and gasoline prices to bash Republicans over energy policy.”

Oh really. This is the party that stopped the nation building nuclear plants. This is the party that toyed with carbon taxes. This is the party of Al Gore, now right in the middle of publicizing An Inconvenient Truth, “by far the most terrifying movie you will ever see.” This is the party that won’t let oil companies prospect for oil off the left and right coasts. This is the party whose activists prevented the US from building new petroleum refineries. This is the party that filibusters against drilling for oil in an arctic wilderness that just happens to be right next to a major oil pipeline with spare capacity.

And now Democrats are bashing Republicans over energy policy? Yes, and Republicans better get out in front of them before $3.00 gasoline and An Inconvenient Truth brew up a “perfect storm” and blow the nation into an eco-Marshall Plan to increase energy taxes and throw subsidies at a daunting array of environmentalist pet projects from wind farms to biodiesel.

Read Al Gore’s article in Vanity Fair to understand just how terrified you should be. After reciting the usual catalog of climate changes, he warns of “the 10,000 foot mound of ice on top of Greenland” that would, if it melted or broken up, “raise the sea level worldwide by more than 20 feet.”

In the face of all this, “why is it that our leaders seem not to hear such clarion warnings?” Maybe, Al, it’s because they don’t just listen to eco-alarmists like you but also contrarian ideas like the theory of the University of Virginia’s Bill Ruddiman that global warming from agriculture has already staved off the next ice age.

Al Gore reminds us that “The Chinese expression for ‘crisis’ consists of two characters: ??. The first is a symbol for ‘danger’; the second is a symbol for ‘opportunity.’”

He is a politician and he would know. It is when they feel danger that the people rise up and demand that the politicians “do something.” For a brief window of opportunity the special interest blocking forces are weakened as the people demand that the politicians lead them to safety.

All the stars are in alignment. Americans are angry as they shovel out $80 to fill up their SUVs. The Democrats are hypocritically on the attack, threatening to get to the right of the president; the mainstream media is baying for blood, shoveling anecdotal stories of helpless consumers ruined by high gas prices.

Usually economic “crises” are bad news because they provide an excuse for the politicians to do something stupid like impose price controls or prop up failing corporations. But not this one. Not if the president and the congressional leadership can rouse themselves from their torpor. Not if they can bestir themselves to do something more than stand foursquare against “price gouging.”

Now is the time to demand that Congress passes a decent energy bill. Now is the chance to demand that we build some more oil refineries. Now is the chance to drill for oil in ANWR. Now is the chance to search for oil on the continental shelf off the west and east coasts. Now is the chance to rationalize the crazy quilt of gasolines blended for each individual city.

Of course the Democrats are demagoguing on energy. They demagogue on everything. Some day, in a quieter, more reflective time, there will be an opportunity to conduct a scholarly study to determine whether the Democrats of the twenty-first century actually believe in anything other than temporary partisan advantage. But this is not that time.

Now is the time to call the Democrats’ bluff on energy—not to mention border security, Iraq, and taxes. Is anyone paying attention? At the White House? Mr. President? Karl Rove? On Capitol Hill? Denny Hastert?

Nothing personal, you understand. It’s just that when we read in Time that the White House’s five point plan to save the Bush presidency doesn’t include a bullet point for high gas prices, we begin to wonder if anyone is home.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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