Bush’s energy/food strategy unsurprisingly underwhelming
Bush had a press conference yesterday morning to blame Congress for soaring energy and food prices: “Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all [Americans] are getting is delay.”
Oh, but he did offer some “short-term” solutions. His answer to rising electricity prices: Nukes!
As electricity prices rise, Congress continues to block provisions needed to increase domestic electricity production by expanding the use of clean, safe nuclear power.
[Pause for laughter]
Bush seems unaware of the soaring prices for nukes (see “Power plants’ costs double since 2000“). I am preparing a major analysis on this topic. Suffice it to say for now that a new nuclear power plant would probably not be able to deliver power substantially below $0.15 a kilowatt-hour (not counting transmission and distribution costs)! Nuclear power is about the last form of electricity you would turn to if you care about price — or if you cared about delivering power in a hurry, for that matter.
High oil prices? That’s any easy one. It’s Congress’ fault for not opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, says the president.
Who cares that it ANWR would not deliver its oil for a decade? Who cares that its new supply would be soaked up by growing global demand in under one year? (I’d ask who cares about greenhouse-gas emissions, but we know that doesn’t include the president.)
Bush himself said, “One of the main reasons for high gas prices is that global oil production is not keeping up with growing demand.” But he’s got no proposals for reducing demand. In fact, he reiterated his refusal to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve some 67,000 barrels a day — a pointless contribution to global demand.
Finally, Bush was asked about the connection between high corn prices and his ethanol policy.
Reporter: The World Bank says about 85 percent of the increase in corn price since 2002 is due to biofuel — increased demand for biofuels. And your Secretary of State said that — indicated yesterday that she thought that might be part of the problem. Do you agree with that? And what can the United States do — what more can the United States do to help make food more affordable around the world?
The president: Actually, I have a little different take: I thought it was 85 percent of the world’s food prices are caused by weather, increased demand and energy prices — just the cost of growing product — and that 15 percent has been caused by ethanol, the arrival of ethanol.
By the way, the high price of gasoline is going to spur more investment in ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. And the truth of the matter is it’s in our national interests that our farmers grow energy, as opposed to us purchasing energy from parts of the world that are unstable or may not like us.
I can’t find the 85 percent figure online (please post if you do). The closest I can find is World Bank President Robert Zoellick saying on NPR: “Biofuels is no doubt a significant contributor. It is clearly the case that programs in Europe and the United States that have increased biofuel production have contributed to the added demand for food.”
In any case, Bush’s ethanol policy is so flawed that even the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, wants to cut the mandate in half — and I could not agree more (see my Marketplace interview or “Let them eat biofuels!“)
When President Bush says “the truth of the matter,” you know it’s time to put your hand on your wallet.