Bush’s Energy Policy: Begging for More Oil
President Bush was in Saudi Arabia yesterday to pursue the linchpin of his Administration’s energy policy: He asked the Saudis to produce more oil. Roughly translated, the Saudis said, "No. We will do it only if it’s in our interest, not yours."
As Hillary Clinton noted in last night’s Democratic debate, Bush has been reduced to pathetically begging the Saudis to sell us more oil at nearly $100 per barrel. The image is even uglier when one realizes that some portion of that record price may consist of risk premia caused by the Administration’s own war mongering, including pumping up an obviously ambiguous naval incident with Iran, another of the world’s largest oil producers.
At the same time, Secretary Rice showed up in Baghdad, ostensibly to take credit for the Iraqi Parliament’s approval of a law that, according to some Iraqis, does not go far enough in undoing the damage Jerry Bremer, Bush’s hand picked proconsul, caused in banning Baathists from the Iraqi government. Instead of reconciling, the Iraqis are now arguing whether the new law includes or excludes more Sunnis from government.
But acknowledging such truths in not Rice’s trade, and the law probably wasn’t her main focus anyway. More likely, Rice was in Baghdad to press al Maliki’s government to get Parliament to pass the oil law, which the Administration hopes will give US oil firms privileged access to develop Iraq’s oil resources.
Under Bush/Cheney, US strategic energy policy thus consists of (1) selling the Saudis advanced weapons and arming, funding and protecting an 80,000 man Sunni militia in Iraq in exchange for the possibility of more oil from repressive dictatorships; (2) repeatedly threatening war against the next largest oil producer, Iran; and (3) maintaining an indefinite occupation that costs us $9 billion a month to preserve future access to Iraqi reserves. It would be hard to imagine a more irresponsible and costly strategic policy, nor one that endangers our security interests more, even if you don’t count the cost in lives.
Indefinite wars and forcing America to buy oil at $90-$100/bbl while billions flow out of the country every month instead of into alternative energy development are what John McCain and Joe Lieberman are touting as a "success." Indeed, all the Republican nominees seem convinced they can safely run on their consistent support of Bush’s Middle East ventures, while they undermine prospects for an economic stimulus here.
But Americans can see those policies have a direct, negative impact on the economy, just as the economy becomes a major issue for voters. If Republicans assume they can separate Bush’s catastrophic foreign polices from the damage those policies are doing to the US economy, they’re in for a surprise.
Update: C&L has more on economic views from NBC’s Michigan Exit Polls. Update II: Scholars and Rogues calculates some of the economic opportunity costs of the Iraq occupation, following this WaPo op ed by Harold Meyerson. We can stay in Iraq, or we can . . . you name it.