With Phony Energy Plan, Gore Shifts Blame for Rising Prices

In recent weeks, gas prices have surged to their highest level in a decade. Prices for home heating oil and natural gas are expected to rise by about 30 percent this winter. Is the United States on the brink of an energy crisis?

Perhaps, or perhaps not. But gas price spikes do pose a potentially lethal political threat in an election year. Perhaps no one is as vulnerable as Vice President Al Gore. With the Clinton-Gore administration’s policies largely to blame for the pain being felt by consumers, Vice President Gore’s camp has pulled out all the stops to shift blame away from his own administration.

What Gore’s hastily crafted “solution” reveals is that he has no realistic long-term strategy, will accept no responsibility for the policies that have led to the current mess, and will not disclose how his real agenda would raise prices even further.

On September 21, the vice president made a speech that, “takes aim at high prices on gasoline and home heating oil.” Gore bashed domestic oil producers, and called for policies he argued would meet America’s energy needs.

What Gore’s hastily crafted “solution” reveals is that he has no realistic long-term strategy, will accept no responsibility for the policies that have led to the current mess, and will not disclose how his real agenda would raise prices even further.

Rather than “fighting for the people instead of the powerful” as he is fond of saying, it seems Gore wants to fool the people until he gets the power.

Gore’s recipe for quick relief is releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). If we learned anything in the 1970s, however, it is that direct government intervention in energy markets usually produce very negative effects. The SPR, further, was not created to deal with price fluctuations. It was intended to meet serious fuel shortages in times of national security crises. Gore may consider threats to his White House aspirations a national security crisis, but using the taxpayer funded SPR to bail out his campaign is, quite simply, unethical.

A better solution might be to cut the federal gas tax, which adds 18.4 cents to the cost of every gallon. This might prove embarrassing to Gore, since he cast the deciding vote to raise gas taxes in 1993.

Gore’s long-term “solutions” hark back to failed schemes from the Carter era — mainly vast taxpayer subsidies for solar and wind power and other technologies that are still decades away from providing Americans with reliable energy, along with good old fashioned pork-barrel projects like light rail and high-speed trains.

Part of Gore’s escape and evasion tactics — again funded by the taxpayers — is to use his elected office to order the Federal Trade Commission to investigate what he calls “profiteering” by “Big Oil.” Attacking business has been a favorite tactic of Gore’s, but courtesy of a memo from his own Department of Energy he has known for months that “profiteering” has nothing to do with rising prices. The memo instead found Clinton-Gore administration regulations to be one of the primary factors.

In reality, Gore’s attacks on oil producers are designed to distract attention from his own culpability for the price spikes.

As mentioned, Gore cast the deciding vote for higher gas taxes. The Clinton-Gore administration has also imposed new costs and complex regulations on domestic producers, blocked new exploration in remote Alaskan areas and offshore, and forced consumers to use scarce, costly, and ineffective reformulated gasoline blends. Over the past eight years, domestic production of oil has plummeted by almost 20 percent, and America is now more dependent on foreign supplies than at any time in history.

Gore has also avoided discussing how his real long-term policy goals would hurt consumers. First and foremost is his unflinching support for the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty allegedly intended to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases Gore believes will cause global warming. Kyoto — were it ever approved — would cost Americans dearly. Economists estimate that the agreement could cost the U.S. economy as much as $397 billion annually, with a 60 cent per gallon increase in gas prices. It would do nothing to address greenhouse gases, however, since it exempts developing countries like China, Mexico, and India from its mandates.

Then there are Gore’s other goals, like banning all exploration and drilling in potentially oil-rich sections of Alaska, imposing a carbon tax on fossil fuels, and another stab at the Btu tax on energy (which Congress rejected in 1993). If these plans were implemented, the current energy crunch might seem pleasant by comparison.

America needs common-sense energy policies that will increase competition, lower prices, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Instead, Gore’s only strategy is to blame others until election day. Unfortunately for consumers, casting about for scapegoats doesn’t pay the bills.