Category Archives: political symbols

What to do about gas prices?


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.
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Follow the money …

Recall Deep Throat (All the President’s Men), that basic piece of advice: “Follow the Money.” As we listen to the George W. Bush’s, John McCain’s, the Republican Party’s, and the RWSM’s response to what George W. Bush described as America’s “addiction to oil”, remember those words.

In face of addiction, is the Republican Party fighting to get us (the US) to a treatment center? Struggling to help us (the US) get off the addiction? Preparing us (the US) for going cold turkey? No, they are struggling for ways to feed the addiction and keep us hooked. Hooked, that is, as the problem worsens even more such that the inevitable crash truly will be a crash and burn of our nation.

John McCain went to Houston Oilers’ territory for his first major energy speech. Totally apropos, because the best he could come up with was to argue for putting drills everywhere one can imagine. Never mind that those wells would have, at best, a marginal impact (perhaps less than 5 cents per gallon) on gasoline prices years (if not decades) into the future (opening ANWR would have less than a 2 cents/gallon impact in 2025). Never mind that the resources are, generously speaking, limited. Never mind that there are efficiency measures that could lead to the equivalent of shaving 50 cents or more gallon. Efficiency measures that all of us (all of the US) could put into action immediately. Never mind because helping us (the US) really doesn’t seem to be behind this mindless, truthiness laden, and often simply false rhetoric.

No, why not follow the money?

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Politics and Gas Prices

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.
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Physicians take a Socially Responsible Stand on Lieberman-Warner

The Physicians for Social Responsibility have stepped with a strong statement about the Lieberman-Warner Climate inSecurity Act’s inadequacies and requirements for strengthening it.

In June the U.S. Senate will begin debate on legislation to address global warming.  The Climate Security Act, S. 3036, fails to meet the scientific targets that will be necessary to avoid the worst affects of climate change. 

Absolutely,the Coal Subsidy Act fails to meet any reasonable definition of scientific targets, despite Barbara Boxer’s misleading claim that this follows scientific advice.

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Bethesda Bagels vs County Executive’s SUV?

Two Washington Post articles in the past week provide an interesting little localized contrast of the challenges related to finding a path toward an Energy Smart future.
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Meet Paddy, Max and Maxine

Yes, you too can have your two-year cuddling at home with colorful bean bag elephants. At just $35 each  or $90 for three, you can have your gray, green, and pink elephants.

The send-up opportunities are just too enormouse hear.

The Pink Elephant?  Is a sign that the Republican National Committee is embracing the Log Cabin Republicans?  Or, is this simply sexual stereotyping, as this is “Maxine”.

The Green Elephant suddenly a Republican embracing of the importance for green power for a stronger American economy and for securing the nation’s future. Well, as this is “Paddy”, pretty sure that this means the Republican Party is declaring where it stands on the Catholic-Prostetant divide in Northern Ireland.   Or, does the RNC mean to have it both ways?

Meet Paddy, the newest member of the Republican National Committee’s family of elephants.

Paddy is available for a imited-time onlyand is sure to be snapped up quickly.  Embroidered with the official logo of the RNC, Paddy is a wonderful plush toy and makes a perfect gift for St. Patrick’s Day.  Or give Paddy to the “Green” Republican in your life who is dedicated to improving the environment.

The “Green” Republican as target audience. “Dedicated to improving the environment” and Republican haven’t been much of a match since the days of men like Mac Mathias. Thus, there is a good reason for making this a limited edition version as, with each passing day, Green Republicans are becoming an ever-more endangered species.