On the last leg of his Middle East trip, President Bush appealed to OPEC to release more oil.
World crude oil prices have been setting new record after new record, all of them in the "high price" category. And an increasing number of economists and analysts are finding themselves less shy about using the word "recession" to describe the U.S. economy.
So it's not surprising that Bush would make an appeal to the Saudis and other oil cartel members (though not Iran and Venezuela, because we don't talk to them).
But the decision to be this reliant on oil at this stage of the game was made in the early hours of the Bush presidency, when Vice President Dick Cheney convened his energy task force, which was made up entirely of industry men. If the nation had moved then toward a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet, as the latest energy bill does, or boosted research into alternative fuels, we would be better equipped to weather these high oil prices. (Others have argued, as the Investors Business Daily did today, that the error was in not boosting domestic oil production, but there wouldn't be enough oil there to prevent the price run-up we've seen, and are likely to experience in the future.)
These high oil prices are likely to stick around. Whether or not you believe in the peak oil theory that says the world has just about tapped all the cheap crude it can, it's clear that the supply is tight enough that any supply disruption or threat of disruption sends prices higher.
And, while past U.S. recessions have depressed world prices for oil and commodities like corn and metals, because our dropping demand had a huge influence on the world market, not so anymore, as the New York Times pointed out this week. Now, China, India and other fast-developing nations use so much that a U.S. recession, and its attendant decline in demand, would not bring down prices.
Republican and Democratic presidential candidates alike are talking about "energy independence." It wasn't a goal that defined the Bush energy agenda.
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