State Of The Union: A Reaction
It’s been a few years since I’ve actually taken anything any President says in a State of the Union address seriously. Nonetheless, there are a few things that President Bush said tonight that I have to question:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Faced with a widely unpopular war in Iraq and a Democratic Congress, President Bush in his State of the Union address urged lawmakers to work with him to “achieve big things for the American people.”
The U.S. should reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years, Bush said. His plan includes tightening fuel economy standards on automakers and producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel such as ethanol by 2017.
One official has said that would equal taking 26 million vehicles off U.S. roads.
“For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments…raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy,” Bush said.
Bush repeated his call for Congress to give him the power to set average fuel-economy standards for passenger cars.
Not one word, of course, about ending Federal regulation of the energy industry. Or allowing power companies to actually build a nuclear power plant for the first time in nearly 40 years. Instead, we get empty rhetoric about reducing dependence on “foreign oil” that fails to recognize the fact that the reason that American demand for oil and gasoline continues to grow is because the economy continues to grow. Even higher fuel prices create unseen benefits because they make the idea of alternative fuels that were unrealistic in the days of cheap oil and gas seem much more realistic.
On the whole, these are not bad things. The problem with the President’s proposals, as is usually the case with so-called energy policy, is that it starts with the assumption that Washington, not the market, is the proper place to decide America’s energy future. If the President truly wanted to end America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy, he’d eliminate government regulation of the entire field of energy production and let the market figure it out.