Between the lines: Truth is likely in shorter supply than oil

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) released a modern-day press release about a week or so ago – a You Tube video.

The video is basically a press conference that he evidently called in Washington, DC in late February. Standing behind a podium, surrounded by stern-faced GOP Senate colleagues, he basically says that rising gas prices are President Obama's fault.

He also says the president's policies have made things much, much worse. He repeated a statement that Obama, while still a senator, made in 2008 indicating that he (Obama) said his policies would necessarily make energy prices skyrocket.

Thune also said Obama's Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu said in 2008, "Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."

Our junior senator perhaps shouldn't have been so eager to go after the president. Heaven knows he is just a small part of a massive chorus of conservative politicians, Republican party officials, cable news yakkers, radio talk show hosts and others tightly aligned with the GOP who are singing a loud chorus of discontent and blaming the president for rising gas prices.

I'm not so sure they truly believe in what they are saying. I mean, you can smell spring in the air of this, an election year. A time when politicians are known to say anything to get elected. Or discredit a politician they'd like to see voters boot out of office.

We – the general citizenry – get shortchanged in the process. Our leaders are often wrong, and subsequently, we aren't told the truth.

Take Thune's dig at Dr. Chu, for example. It's inaccurate. And that inaccuracy has been revealed. I hope our senator will get around to telling the nation, in a gesture that is just as bold as his You Tube press release, that he must correct his statement.

Here's what really happened, according to Media Matters for America:

It all started with a story that appeared in Politico that fueled (pun intended) the misguided attacks on Energy Secretary Chu.

The article titled, "Chu: DOE working to wean U.S. off oil, not lower prices," claimed:

 "The Energy Department isn't working to lower gasoline prices directly, Secretary Steven Chu said Tuesday after a Republican lawmaker scolded him for his now-infamous 2008 comment that gas prices in the U.S. should be as high as in Europe."

But this report is based on an assumption made by Politico reporter Alex Guillen about how Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) was going to finish a question. Here's what actually happened in the hearing:

 REP. NUNNELEE: But is the overall goal to get our price –

CHU: No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil to – to build and strengthen our economy and to decrease our dependency on oil.

But here's Politico's version of what happened:

"But is the overall goal to get our price" of gasoline down, asked Nunnelee.

"No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy," Chu replied.

Guillen built his story on what he assumed Nunnelee was asking and gave no indication that the question was, in fact, ambiguous. There is good reason to believe that Chu thought Nunnelee was actually asking, "Is the overall goal to get our price up to European levels," since this was Nunnelee's previous question:

NUNNELEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Secretary for being here. Before you were nominated, you were quoted as saying, quote, "Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." I can't look at motivations. I have to look at results. And under this administration, the price of gasoline is doubled. While bumping $4 a gallon in North Mississippi, today the price of gasoline in Europe is about $8 a gallon, and the people of North Mississippi can't be here.

So, I have to be here and be their voice for them. And I have to tell you that $8 a gallon gasoline makes them afraid. It's a cruel tax on the people of North Mississippi as they try to go back and forth to work. It's a cloud hanging over economic development and job creation, and it appears to me this administration continues to drag its feet on oil exploration on fossil fuel development and recovery. How do you respond to that?

*************

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the Heritage Foundation, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Nunnelee subsequently cited the Politico article to claim that Chu "admitted his goal isn't to lower gas prices." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) repeated the claim in a floor speech, as did Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) while promoting his book.

And, it sounds like Sen. Thune had to chime in, too.

A correction from the senator would be nice. I mean, it was an honest mistake on his part, I'm sure. And on the part of just about every other Republican politician.

But I suggest we not hold our breath waiting.

The truth is, from a political standpoint at least, just about everyone in Washington, of every single political persuasion, has done little over the past four decades to forge a comprehensive, realistic energy policy.

There's plenty of blame to spread around among Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Partiers, etc. Of course nobody will accept the blame. They'll do just like our senator and his Republican colleague did – point fingers.

Last week, Paul R. La Monica, an assistant managing editor at CNNMoney, wrote

"Americans are rightfully annoyed about rising gas prices. But politicians are making matters worse. They are fueling (pun intended) the anger by constantly talking about how they will lower gas prices.

Newt Gingrich is the latest, with his promise for $2.50 a gallon gas. President Obama bemoaned the spike in gas prices in a speech Tuesday as well.

I wish whomever is occupying the White House next January good luck in lowering gas prices. But words and rhetoric aren't going to do it. Rob Perks, Transportation Advocacy Director for The Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental organization in Washington, said as much in a blistering blog post Tuesday titled "Empty Promises, Empty Gas Tanks"

"As a global commodity, gas prices rise and fall due to a number of factors: crude oil prices, refinery capacity, increasing demand and political unrest in oil-producing countries. It seems like some people think the Constitution guarantees Americans the "right" to cheap gas, but the only price that is right is whatever the market will bear. That's why no president can control what we pay at the pump. Any politician that says otherwise is trying to sell the public snake oil," he wrote."

If Sen. Thune and his colleagues were truly trying to be accurate in assessing why gas prices are rising, they would cite the above factors, and maybe throw in how the current unrest in Syria has oil speculators going crazy right now. President Obama's recent comments about energy prices likely contain some convenient political inaccuracies, too.

I can't help but feel a tinge of deja vu as I write this. Last March,  almost exactly a year ago, gas prices were, again, going up. Rep. Kristi Noem tried to blame it on the EPA. The true culprit was the unrest in Libya. And refinery capacity, demand, etc.

This all leads one to believe that perhaps everyone needs a good fill up of one special ingredient – mainly the truth about U.S. and global energy – before we can tackle the many stumbling blocks we must face as we seek a viable energy policy.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>