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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eight Speeches, Zero Results

President Bush delivers the 2008 State of the Union

Bush gave his final State of the Union Address last night -- the operative word here is "final." As in, the American people rejoice and say, "Yay!" Last night, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It's still nearly a year away, but it's there. We see it. We know that our long national nightmare will end. We will wake. Personally, I plan on getting massively hammered after the next president is sworn in. New Years Eve blotto. If I can talk friends into stupid paper hats, noisemakers, and champagne, then that's what we'll do. Like every New Years Eve, when the next president takes the Oath of Office, we'll have every reason to celebrate a new beginning.

And the beauty here is that it really doesn't matter much who wins. I've always argued that a cinderblock would make a better president than Bush has, since a cinderblock can't actually do anything -- which means it can't do anything wrong. If there's going to be one thing the next president has to thank Bush for -- and it'll be the only thing -- it'll be for setting the bar of a successful presidency so damned low. If you do better than Bush, you'll be a tremendous success. Pretty much the only way to do a worse job will be to try. At both the Summer and Winter Olympics of Suck, President Bush is a Gold Medalist.

I decided I'd go through the past SOTU addresses and look at one issue -- energy. See, throughout his presidency, Bush has used every SOTU as an occasion to deliver empty rhetoric, push propaganda, and to make promises soon to be forgotten and broken. Some of the promises he made were easy -- in 2006, he promised to stop mad scientists from creating "human/animal hybrids." Since there was no Dr. Moreau out there making tiger women and baboon men, that was a pretty easy promise to keep.

But, when it comes to energy and the environment, Bush has excelled at making promises he'd never deliver on. In his first State of the Union, Bush told us that "many citizens are struggling with the high cost of energy." Bush solved that problem by making the energy costs of 2001 look good by comparison. In 2001, the average price of a gallon of gas in the US was $1.52. Bush promised to put together an Energy Policy -- which turned out to be Dick Cheney asking the guys at Enron and Exxon what would be on their wishlist. Now, gas is hovering around three bucks -- Bush solved the problem of energy costs by doubling the price at the pump. Good job. So much for the energy promises of 2001.

In 2002, Bush was too busy trying to freak everyone out with terrorism to be bothered much with energy. That year, the promises were vague. "This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil," he said. Of course, he put all his own energy into drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge. Being "less dependent on foreign oil" didn't mean being less dependent on oil -- that would be crazy talk. We had a good half-hour's worth of oil up there in Alaska.

By 2003, Bush was really on a roll.

Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. (Applause.) I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home. (Applause.) I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70-percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years. (Applause.) I have sent you a Healthy Forests Initiative, to help prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of treasured forest. (Applause.)

Bush had begun his strategy of PR BS on the environment. Clear Skies and Healthy Forests were named in complete opposition to what they'd do. Clear Skies called for voluntary pollution standards, which were predictably ignored by industry. Healthy Forests was a scheme to allow the timber industry into public lands. The idea was that, if you didn't cut down trees, there'd be terrible forest fires and the environment would be destroyed. At the time, I wondered how the forests in America had managed to survive all those millions of years before the lumberjacks showed up. I suppose it was just an incredible string of luck.

And one promise in particular turned out to be BS. "In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation," Bush said. "Tonight I'm proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles."

And that's why we're all driving hydrogen fuel cell vehicles today. Thank you President Bush.

In 2004, Bush returned to a familiar theme. "Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run," he said, "So I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

Dang, I thought we'd solved that. Turns out we didn't. That year, gas reached $2.00 a gallon. You'd think that a bunch of Texas oil men would know how to cut gas prices. They probably did -- the real question is what possible incentive could they have to do so?

So we got a lot of pie-in-the-sky BS about getting off the oil habit. Of course, Bush had no reason to do that. So, in 2005, we get the same promises again:

To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. (Applause.) Nearly four years ago, I submitted a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, alternative sources, a modernized electricity grid, and more production here at home -- including safe, clean nuclear energy. (Applause.) My Clear Skies legislation will cut power plant pollution and improve the health of our citizens. (Applause.) And my budget provides strong funding for leading-edge technology -- from hydrogen-fueled cars, to clean coal, to renewable sources such as ethanol. (Applause.) Four years of debate is enough: I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy. (Applause.)

Nuclear energy may or may not be safe, but there's absolutely no way you can call an industry that creates waste so toxic you have to bury it in the heart of a mountain "clean." Sure there are no smokestacks, but smokeless tobacco isn't good for you either. And, again, we're still waiting on the hydrogen-powered astro-cars. I guess while we're waiting for these things, we'll have to rely on oil. Just the way it goes.

2006 was his big energy speech. "America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology," Bush said. "Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances."

We're always on the threshold and never through the door. Gone now were the hydrogen Jetsons cars -- it was all about ethanol and biodiesel. And a return to the same phrase from last year; "clean, safe nuclear energy."

"Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean," President Bush said last year. "For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy."

He couldn't even keep his promises straight. In the previous State of the Union, Bush promised to cut oil consumption by 70% by 2025. In 2006, he told us, "Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years." So, by 2016, we'd still have 50% to go before we reached the goal he'd previously set.

Which brings us to last night. With gas prices doubled from when he started this whole BS campaign about our dependence on foreign oil, Bush told us, "Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil."

Yeah, when are we going to get around to actually doing that, George? We've made some half-measures, sure. But there have been eight of these speeches, all with the same damned promises, and we're pretty much in the same place we were when you started. The only progress we seem to have made is in jacking up the price at the pump. You talk a good game, but while you're making pretty noise about our "addiction to oil," you're engaged in a war to steal a bunch of foreign oil. This reduces our dependence on foreign oil, how? Maybe Bush doesn't know that Iraq's a foreign country.

As I say, the day this guy is officially gone is the day I go on a celebratory drunk. This "strong leader" has been leading us around in circles for his entire term in office. We're exactly where we started -- in terms of energy policy, it might as well still be 2001.

Good riddance, George.


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