Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Endless Bummer

It's amazing how the Republicans have wholly abdicated their supposed "daddy party" role, and taken over the stereotypical Democrat role of woolly-headed idealism bordering on willful blindness, of employing utterly stupid policies at the expense of common sense, of corruption and incompetence laundered with corporate nepotism and pelf. Swaddle all that in the soiled surplices of the Christofascists, and you're cooking with gas, mister!

The latest case in point is the energy bill passed by the House the other day. It's all just a big bargaining chip to these assholes, something to attach various riders and sops to oil companies, who just haven't seen enough record profits.

The House this week will consider $8 billion in tax breaks targeted to the energy industry at a time when some of those companies are enjoying soaring profits from high consumer prices.

The vast majority of the tax breaks would benefit companies that produce and supply traditional forms of energy, with a large portion going to the oil and natural gas sector.

The House legislation, approved last week by the Ways and Means Committee, is at odds with the Bush administration's approach. The president's proposed budget calls for $6.7 billion in tax breaks for energy, with 72 percent going toward renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency, compared with about 6 percent in the House plan.

Yeah, I'm sure that this isn't some sort of cheap sub rosa tactic to let the bad cops put out the hardass plan, so the White House can swoop in magnanimously and cut the sweetheart deal they wanted in the first place. Nope, nobody here but us chickens. The Republican reps are deliberately thwarting the White House's official plan, just because they can.

I'm afraid to ask just how fucking stupid Pravda assumes we are. Apparently plenty stupid. To be fair, it's not as if that isn't an entirely reasonable assumption.

Now, the current backlash on gas prices is in the context of a rather peculiar argument. The current received wisdom is that this sudden radical price adjustment is a long time coming, because we Americans -- every last one of us, apparently -- are pigs. We have slopped at the oil trough for a pittance for long enough, and this price increase, in and of itself, is necessary to get us all back on the path to sensible consumption.

Well, I say "bullshit" to that. I submit that aside from having a beat-up Dodge Coronet for one year when I was 18, I have driven fuel-efficient cars as main commuters since I was old enough to drive. I submit that I had never regularly driven a gas-guzzler until my daughter was born, and we got a Nissan Pathfinder -- rather small on the SUV food chain -- for two very important reasons: the required child seat takes up a lot of space in a Honda Accord, which doesn't have much grocery capacity to begin with; and as some sort of small defense against SUV drivers themselves, who feel free to drive as they please, secure in the knowledge that wrecking into another vehicle is no danger to themselves. And it's never been a commuter, the Pathfinder; maybe 40 miles per week on average.

I submit that it has never occurred to me, or to a lot of other people, to have my vehicle be some sort of rolling substitute or imputation of sexual prowess or cock size. That's what I use my actual cock for. Imagine that. Some folks actually just use cars to get to work, rather than to rub the world's collective nose in their lifestyle choices.

I seriously doubt that I am the only person who was raised to consider waste and conspicuous consumption to be cardinal sins.

I submit that, while some gradiated price adjustments were to be expected due to ever-closer peak ratios of supply, demand, and production capacity, this sudden radical increase is due to aggregate demand, which is greatly exaggerated by the preponderance of these Excursions and Hummers and such. Sharply accelerated demand in China and India are also huge factors, but no sane person could argue that we haven't been our own worst enemies. This is so obvious, it scarcely merits mentioning, and yet it does.

The first real economic wave of this will show up this summer. Gasoline will probably be around $3.00 per gallon by June, just as tourism season rolls around, and Americans start getting ready to go on vacation. Or not; a great many of them may just say "fuck it" and cocoon with their DVDs this summer. We'll know in the fall, by how many hotel and tourism workers are looking for work in the Brush-Clearer-In-Chief's Hard Work Being Done By Good People's Paradise.

No one is expecting Simon-pure perfection here; no one is saying we must live communally and bicycle in perfect harmony to our jobs and celebrate the glorious Dear Leader's triumphs over the capitalist running dogs. Nothing like that. But there has been an enormous case of the stupids in the SUV trend, and what sucks is that everyone has to pay the price for it, whether or not they've "behaved".

I understand that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, but for once, let us refer to the proverbial entrenching implement as a spade and be honest about this.

They refuse to be honest about this. There are bills, in California and elsewhere, that actually want to tax mileage rather than fuel efficiency. So the guy driving a Prius gets fucked, while the asshole in his Hummer gets away with it. Knowing what we all know, seeing what we all see, reasonably anticipating the trends to come, this is inexcusable.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is being put forth as some sort of solution. This is a prime example of the dishonesty at work here. Best estimates of ANWR oil reserves are about six months' supply, at current US consumption rates. It will take ten years to get that oil out of there, by which point it won't matter, one way or the other. And this is assuming that every drop of ANWR oil goes to US consumption, which is extremely unlikely. So ANWR is not only not a solution, it's not even a help.

All that said, I think a perfectly good compromise, by way of bluff-calling, would have been for the Democrats to say, "Okay, tell you what. We'll agree to drill in ANWR, provided CAFE standards start getting enforced again, and we embark on an Apollo Project-style program to commit to energy independence in ten years." Believe it or not, John Kerry was campaigning on this very platform -- back in 2003. Once he became viable, he stopped mentioning it. That was a huge mistake. For a tough-guy veteran, he seems to not grasp the notion of dying with one's boots on.

If one wants to make the intellectually-bankrupt argument that people should be able to drive anything and everything, and we should all absorb the externalities and the skewed aggregate demand equally -- even though consumption ratios are nowhere near equal -- then take a shot. But to actively punish the fossil-fuel conservatives -- and that's what they are, they're conserving, maintaining a rational, sensible balance and level of consumption -- is punitive, short-sighted, and self-destructive.


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