Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Gas prices

While gas prices have been an obsession of the media lately, I've written not a word. Partly this is because I bike and walk to work, so it isn't an issue that hits me especially hard. But mostly because I don't think this was surprising. Between rapidly rising consumption (driven as much by China's increasing industrialization as domestic consumption changes) and flattening supply, prices had to spike.

People have been saying this for 40 years. And if we worked steadily over that time, we could have put a real dent in the price we pay for gas by cutting consumption without serious lifestyle changes. Closing the SUV loophole in the CAFE standards a decade ago would have done a lot.

One idea that would do absolutely nothing is sending everyone $100 from the federal treasury. Bad fiscal policy, bad environmental policy. And $100 is barely enough money for real pandering. Spend the money installing solar cells and solar water heaters on ever federal building. Spend it on an electrically powered federal auto pool. Spend it on rebates for people buying Low Emissions Vehicles. Spend it on electrical companies that produce green energy, or on people designing better fuel cells.

These are all reasons to spike the asinine proposal.

But the idea died for other reasons:
The retreat came after a torrent of objections from business leaders and their advocates, who typically view Republicans in Congress as allies. They said they had been blindsided by the inclusion of the proposal as a central element of the Republican leadership's energy package late last week.
This is how our Republican Congress works. Bad ideas succeed or fail not on their merits, but on their benefits for industry.

This is why we need a change. When Republicans took over in 1994, they claimed they were going to clean up the Hill. But Tom Delay worked with K Street lobbyists to seat GOP-friendly faces on the industry side of the table, creating the revolving door of conflicting interests that gave us Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Jim Ryun. Within a few years, the Republican Revolution was more corrupt, more corporatist and less interested in public needs than any Democratic Congress even aspired to be.

Nancy Boyda's campaign is rightly staying away from attacking Ryun directly on his ties to various threads of corruption that are unraveling. She's focussing on the real issue, that Congress is not serving the people. The idea of a $100 check wasn't meant to improve our national well-being, and the idea wasn't killed to make our lives better. We need new leaders because we need real leadership.