Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Whew - got scared there for a minute

Here I was, all prepared to write a post criticizing the Democrats in Congress for passing H.R. 6074, the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008. The bill passed by a 324 - 84 margin (Giffords, Mitchell, Pastor, Grijalva - yea; Franks, Flake, Renzi, Shadegg - nay).

The reason for my intended criticism was not based on the language in the bill, but on some of the press coverage, which calls the bill a move to allow the U.S. to sue OPEC over high gas prices.

AP coverage here; TimesOnline coverage here; AFR coverage here.

The coverage gives the impression that in an era of record-breaking oil prices, and equally record-breaking oil company profits, that Congress has determined that the best solution is to take foreign nations to court.

Assuming that those nations would even bother to face the U.S. in court, given the low regard for international law that is typically exhibited by the U.S. government.

The U.S. government only participates in that process when it suits them - why should any other country behave any differently when it is the U.S. initiating the proceedings?

Based on the MSM coverage, I thought that the bill was pointless and insipid, and reeked of a little election year pandering, and that's always worthy of criticism.

I was sitting at my keyboard, profoundly disappointed in my fellow Democrats, and when the White House threatened a veto of the legislation, I was worried that my agreement with that position might indicate that I'd hit my head, come down with some sort of mental illness, or just plain had my soul sucked out of me.

Then I read the actual language of the bill, and was greatly relieved to find the real teeth of the measure.


The section goes on to delineate some of the areas of interest of the Task Force, including looking for price gouging, market manipulation, anti-competitive behavior, collusive behavior and more.

And it isn't restricted to international cartels and the like. Specifically included are petroleum refiners and wholesalers of gasoline and petroleum products.

In short, the oil companies themselves are in the crosshairs of this bill.

Which thoroughly explains why the White House and the four Republican members of Arizona's delegation so thoroughly oppose the bill.

The "I'm not totally naive" caveats -

It *is* an election year, and I'm fully aware that many of the Democratic supporters of this bill did so to take advantage of the anti-OPEC nature (aka - the "anti-foreigner" nature) of the bill. It's always easier to blame an amorphous "them" for our problems than to tell voters that they might bear some of the responsibility for the creation of and the ultimate solution for the current mess.

In addition, I'm fully aware of the fact that many of the Republicans who supported the bill did so with the full knowledge that it will never become law, either because of a veto they won't vote to override, or because it will die in the Senate.

While this move has some merit (holding Big Oil's feet to the fire is always a good thing), how about an effort to not just wean the U.S. off of *foreign* oil (which is just Republican-speak for "let's destroy ANWR"), but to wean us off of petroleum in general.

Supporting efforts to create something other than the internal combustion engine to power our transportation infrastructure would be a good start, no matter how much Big Oil and Big Auto scream about it.

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