But I have
something else to confess. I am addicted to food as well. I eat
every day, often three times a day. I am addicted to houses; my
wife and I own two of them. I am addicted to water; I drink it
all the time, even swim in it.
America is addicted to oil, in the sense that it uses a lot of
the stuff. But as Bush also pointed out, the American economy
is the envy of the world. There is a close connection between
the two things. North Korea doesn’t use much oil, but would
you want to live there? What Americans are addicted to is economic
get real, folks. Currently there is no alternative to oil, as
much as the Sierra Club might like us to believe otherwise. America
has lots of coal, but among other things coal requires lots of
coal mines – and we have seen lately what can happen in
a coal mine. America has lots of wind and sunshine, but what little
power it provides only exists courtesy of fat subsidies that enlarge
the national debt. Nuclear power? Not in my back yard!
than half of our petroleum supply is imported, often from highly
volatile places. But that is nothing new. America’s “dependence”
on foreign oil goes back half a century. It has been increasing
in recent decades, thanks in part to the refusal of the environmental
lobby to allow any drilling in the United States.
is probably an entrepreneur out there who will come up with a
better idea. But it won’t happen because government is throwing
billions at the problem. Government already has thrown billions
at ethanol, but that has more to do with subsidizing corn farmers
than seriously reducing dependence on oil. Even Greens are dubious
about ethanol, which would require plowing up millions of acres
to make a dent in petroleum use – or else require us to
forego our addiction to food.
And how does
isolating ourselves from unstable parts of the world square with
Bush’s impassioned jeremiad, in the same speech, against
the false temptations of isolationism and protectionism? Yes,
some dysfunctional junta or other, say Iran or Russia, might be
tempted to play the oil card. But not for long: the oil producers
need the revenue just as badly as we need the oil.
find that his rhetoric comes with a steep price. If oil is an
addiction, then we must be forced to deprive ourselves of it.
The left is thrilled. Already there have been calls from Democrats
for a “Manhattan Project” for alternative fuels. The
Sierra Club’s Carl Pope gleefully declared that “the
old energy game is up” and asserted that there is no longer
any excuse for failing to clamp rigid controls on global warming
At the very
least there will be calls for draconian increases in fuel economy
in automobiles and/or sharply higher taxes on gasoline, as if
the oil price increases of the last year weren’t sufficient.
Will a President who has declared oil an “addiction”
be in a position to resist? And what greater tool is there for
the long-desired central planning of the economy than placing
Washington bureaucrats in charge of energy use?
The era of
big government is over, declared Bill Clinton in his 1996 State
of the Union address. The era of big government is just beginning,
declared Bush last week. What may be over, thanks to Bush’s
addiction to rhetoric, is this president’s ability to pursue
a growth agenda.