Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Many neo-conservative hearts must have gotten nervous by those bush words, "America is addicted to oil". Here is some discussion of non-speachless NRO pundits (bold emphasis mine):

"ADDICTED TO OIL" [Jonathan H. Adler]
Yes, the United States uses lots of oil. Given that it is far cheaper to produce oil overseas, the vast majority of oil comes from overseas. It's all well and good to talk about alternative forms of energy, but most of those the President touts - renewable fuels, no-emission coal, etc. - will do nothing to reduce oil imports. Most oil goes into our automobiles, not power plants. The President may get lots of applause for promoting ethanol fuel, but it's hardly sound economic or environmental policy. Don't get me wrong. I am all in favor of clearing the way for alternative energy sources. I just lack confidence in the government's ability to pick the winners and losers in energy markets and steer the way toward an oil-free future.

ENERGY [Cliff May]
Solar and wind? C’mon.

And nuclear is great but it will only cut our dependence on oil when we have plug-in hybrids cars that can run primarily on electricity.

ADDICTED TO OIL [Rick Brookhiser]
Does this mean nuclear power? (Subject of a special issue of NR I edited in 1979, just one month before Three Mile Island!)

MORE ON ENERGY [Jonathan H. Adler]
Reviewing the text, it is interesting that the President's energy comments stressed alternatives to oil (though not alternatives to all fossil fuels, insofar as he mentioned coal). Unfortunately, the President did not talk about policies to free up market-driven innovation in the neergy sector, instead stressing the government's role as the subsidizer of favored technologies.

Yeah, Adler, government is not 100% effective, but is it the worst thing to spend some 40% above optimum? Is the free market more effective and timely, really?

SOTU BEST & WORST [John J. Miller]
A so-so speech. [...]

Worst metaphor: "America is addicted to oil." I eat food every day. Am I addicted to it, like a junkie, or do I merely need it to stay healthy?

never watch the SOTU, believing that Jefferson had the right idea in delivering it by letter, but my colleague Myron Ebell has the following to say on the energy segment:

In his State of the Union address this evening, President Bush took a big step toward returning the United States to the disastrous energy policies of the Nixon and Carter years. The president's hackneyed and dangerous rhetoric that we are addicted to oil is an indication that the administration is addicted to confused thinking about energy policies. The goals and methods the president announced tonight will be hindrances and obstacles to creating a bright energy future for American consumers. They will interfere with the working of the market that provides incentives for increasing supplies and for technological innovations. In taking these steps in the wrong direction, President Bush also seems to have forgotten the positive energy policies that he has promoted in the past. These include removing the political and legal obstacles to exploiting America's vast conventional energy resources, including opening ANWR and OCS areas to oil and gas development.
Yea, verily. The current anti-energy feeling will probably go down as one of the greatest cases of groundless mass hysteria in the history of mankind. Sad to see the President has been infected.

As an indication of what the rest of the world thought was important about the SOTU speech, here's the BBC's headline: "Bush urges end to oil addiction." That one, silly, inaccurate metaphor has attracted more press around the world than anything about Iraq, Iran, cloning, spending cuts or globalization. Le Monde called it his "principal announcement" and even translated the phrase as saying oil is like a drug to America. The lesson for Europe is that America will cave on something fundamental to its economy if you harp on about it long enough.

It's worth looking at just who supplies the US with its oil. Of the top suppliers of oil to us, we presumably are seriously worried about the stability of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Nigeria, Angola, Colombia and Algeria presumably fall into a middle ground where we are trying to support the governments against potential destabilizers. We are presumably happy with Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Kuwait, Ecuador, the United Kingdom (!), Equatorial Guinea, Norway and Trinidad & Tobago (although some may fall in the middle ground). Reducing US energy use generally hurts all of these trading partners; unless we're advocating a Cuba-style boycott of Saudi (but not, according to the President, Venezuelan) oil that would simply increase the pain felt by American consumers at the gas pump, because the price of oil is set in a global market. The oil addiction message makes less and less sense the more you look at it.

Presumably cashing in on the President's anti-oil rhetoric last night, Sen. Specter has said it's time to legislate on oil prices, although how artificially lowering prices will cure an addiction, I don't know. For a great, comprehensive essay on just why windfall taxes and anti-gouging laws are a really, really bad idea, see Marlo Lewis' treatment here.

Reducing energy consumption will hurt some, and will please some. Just like global warming. Why would you care, Murray?

Max Schulz
President Bush said the United States is "addicted to oil." What a poor choice of words. It's like saying humans are "addicted" to oxygen. The simple fact is that our modern-day economy could not exist without the inexpensive and abundant supplies of petroleum that drove the dynamism of the previous century. Oil has — quite literally — fueled our economy and provided Americans unparalleled standards of living. Oil has delivered levels of sustained economic production unimaginable a century ago. And it has helped advance the concept of personal automobility that is so much a feature of present-day America. Those are all good things.

So why did the president's speech make it seem like using oil is, well, so dirty and wrong?

Certainly no one is happy with the wealth transfers to kleptocrats in Riyadh or agitators in Caracas. But bashing foreign oil overlooks the fact that the main supplier of crude oil to the United States is not Saudi Arabia or any other OPEC nation. It's Canada. We should obviously look for ways to lessen our dependence on supplies from unstable parts of the world. That's why the development of Canadian oil sands and the liberalization of Mexico's energy sector (America's number two supplier) are so crucial. Same with opening federal lands such as ANWR to new production. And we should look to new technologies for solutions to our most pressing energy challenges. But we shouldn't condemn oil as some sort of narcotic or poison when it does so much to enrich our daily lives.

Perhaps Bush considered for the first time the possibility that the inexpensive and abundant supplies of petroleum will not be available at some time. Say, we have oil for 50 years. That's maybe fantastic... But wouldn't it be most sensible to make it available for 150 years instead, by conserving it somewhat? Can we be sure that the coming new technologies will provide just as abundant, cheap and effective sources of energy for keeping up a dynamic booming economy?

by das monde on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:55:31 AM EST

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