Americans United for Change has launched a campaign to Free Our Oil! While an interesting response to the Republican focus on lying to support drilling, I challenged this campaign, stating that this effort supports a quite dangerous framing of the problems and solutions.
If we make this just about gas prices, we are caught into a very dangerous framing. “Lowering” gas prices gets people thinking back to cheaper energy unit costs days. We need people, the nation thinking about enery as a system, as a “cost to own” rather than “cost to buy”. We (the nation) should foster upfront investment (help it) that will lower total “cost to own” by reducing wasteful use of polluting energy. While difficult in a robocall, every single message (I would argue) should avoid getting captured in messaging that fosters thinking that we can go back to days of cheaper gasoline. Over the long term (and likely short term), it isn’t going to happen.
In response, I was asked the following question:
Say, for example, you were on TV today as a representative of the Democratic Party. The interviewer asks, “A, what is the Democratic Party doing in Congress to help lower oil/gas costs for Americans who are hurting?” What’s your answer?
The GOP has an answer – gas tax holiday and drilling offshore. You and I know that these are two options that won’t do anything significant in the short-term, and we they do nothing to change the culture of oil that we live in. However, they are ideas and Americans want to hear ideas, be them good or bad.
What can the Dems do right now to bring down costs, without sacrificing their long-term message of changing the way we think about oil. OR, given our foreign policy and the world as it is today. is $4/5/6/gallon just the new reality and we need to suck it up?
For my off-the-top of the head (basically unedited) response, follow me after the fold.
Just how much of the pump price of gasoline is attributable to the war in Iraq? A dollar? Three dollars? None. That conversation recently swirled around me and, one one point, someone commented that well over half (or more than $2) of America’s $4.10 gallon of gas is due to the war. Another person asked “Is that right?” And, after pulling out some hair from my head, my response was both short and then long.
Two dollars a gallon is, perhaps, as good a swag as anyone’s. … I think.
And, the long after the fold.
It is ever so tempting to scream “GAS PRICES” and call for lowered gas prices if you are a candidate challenging for Congress or elsewhere. Ever so tempting to pander to (quite real) concerns about skyrocketing prices with counterproductive calls for cutting gasoline prices. These, however, fly in the face of the realities of Peak Oil and ever increasing demands for oil. Promising lower gasoline prices (or hinting at them) might (MIGHT) be good short-term political moves but is counter-productive in the long term and represents an abandoment of the type of leadership required in the face of Peak Oil and Global Warming.
The reality is that Bush Administration policies, such as filling in the strategic petroleum reserve even in tight supply times and fostering ever worse energy efficiency (promoting McSUVs) and going to war in Iraq, have aggravated the situation, driving prices even higher than they might have been otherwise. Thus, there are policy paths that could provide some relief and, potentially, turn the clock a bit on gasoline prices. But, even with DRILLING, the core requirement is to move toward ever more efficient use of oil. Some of this path is long term and investment required (such as moving toward electrified transport, whether rail or personal vehicles), some can be quite near term and nearly zero cost. That last (the near term, zero cost) creates a true opportunity for combing Energy Smart with Politically Smart.
This morning, CNN will be running Ask Velshi.
CNN Senior Business Correspondent Ali Velshi hosts a live radio broadcast today at 10 a.m. (ET) on CNNRadio and CNN.com Live. “It’s Not Just Gas” takes an in-depth look at why oil is bought and sold on speculation, how the oil market is different or not from the housing and stock market and what’s the real long-term projection for oil and gas prices.
Notice the focus here: “speculation” … “market …” before we get to the fundamental issue, “the real long-term projection …”
Now it is quite clear why the We campaign so enthusiastically embraced Newt Gingrich for an advertisement sitting next to Nancy Pelosi. Yes, that Newt Gingrich who is working so are for “American Solutions for Winning the Future”. We would think that might actually include thinking seriously about moving forward on Global Warming legislation. Yet, Newt’s misleading and deceptive calls on people to support efforts to “Drill Here” and “Drill Now” also includes a broadside against the Lieberman-Warner Climate (in)Security Act that could have come straight out of the mouth of a polluting industry spokesman. (On reflection, perhaps it did). Gingrich’s truthiness about solutions to gas prices is potentially inticing but misleading, at best, and, fundamentally, false.