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Oil irony

| September 28, 2005 12:00 AM

There's a certain degree of irony in President Bush asking the American people to conserve their use of oil by cutting back on unnecessary driving.

It's ironic because the president, the vice president and congress have refused to include conservation as part of the country's so-called energy plan. And this isn't the first president to do so.

It's ironic because this president comes from the oil industry and has done everything he can to promote expansion of the domestic oil industry, the same industry that is reeling from back-to-back hurricane landfalls on the Gulf Coast.

It's ironic because 32 years ago, President Richard Nixon asked the American people to cut back on energy use because of an oil embargo against the U.S. by oil producing nations in the Middle East. Nixon asked the country to cut back on Christmas decorations to save energy. I remember it well because my father invested in more holiday lights that year to show his dislike of Nixon. I'm not sure the outcome would be any different for any of the presidents that have followed making similar requests.

President Bush can certainly ask the American public to do it's share, especially after big oil was given some of the best tax breaks in history and has enjoyed some of the best profit years in history thanks to skyrocketing pump prices for gasoline.

However, any conservation by Americans will come about because our driving habits are too expensive under the existing fuel pricing, not necessarily because once again a fearless leader is asking us.

For more than 30 years, politicians have argued that conservation is anti-American because it will have negative impacts to expansion of the U.S. economy. Under the present scenario that may be true. Forced by high gas prices to curtail our driving habits, perhaps travel plans as a whole, there will be widespread ramifications to the economy. Built into the economy, conservation makes the economy stronger by sustaining energy supplies over a longer period of time. But the bigger money for the bigger corporations is in exploration and development.

There is even a suggestion from the president that we turn to mass transit to conserve fuel. Is that the same mass transit, such as Amtrak, that the administration has been trying to eliminate?

It's ironic that since Nixon first asked Americans to conserve fuel and power in 1973, the railroad as mass transit has been reduced significantly. Conserving energy has become a joke.

In 2001, Vice President Richard Cheney said that conservation was fine as a virtue but not as a national strategy.

I vaguely remember a government study back in the late 1970s, on spending money to weatherize American homes and commercial buildings to a higher R value, said it would significantly boost the economy because of the number of jobs it would create. It was dismissed along with other conservation measures and has largely been ignored except in federal and state programs for the underprivileged and those on fixed incomes.

It's ironic that soon that will be more of us if not most of us.

I think I'll take a page from Scarlett O'Hara, which seems to have been the federal government's mantra for the past 32 years, and not worry about it right now.

I'm going for a drive. — Roger Morris