President Says We Are Addicted to Oil: The Aftermath

How much influence do the Saudis have in Washington?

Link: San Diego CityBEAT

According to President Bush, Americans may be oil addicts. During his State of the Union address, we heard the Grand Oil President actually suggest for the first time that America is addicted to foreign oil—without mentioning drilling in Alaska in the same breath. His solution: rely upon alternate energy technologies as well as ethanol (a grain-based fuel).

The morning after the speech, The New York Times reported that the Energy Department would begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget. The cuts were reported to be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass technologies, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies Bush cited as holding the promise to replace part of the nation’s oil imports. Moreover, the budget for the laboratory was cut by nearly 15 percent, to $174 million from $202 million, requiring the layoff of about 40 staff members out of a total of 930. The president’s office issued those cuts.

The next day, Reuters reported that the Saudis were disturbed by the president’s language and asked for a clarification. The Saudis got that clarification within hours. Bush’s energy secretary, Samuel Bodman, explained that the president didn’t mean what he said literally. In a conference call with reporters, he explained that what the president meant was that alternative fuels could displace the increased demand for oil from the Middle East over the next 20 years. He wasn’t actually talking about reducing our consumption so much as replacing the sources that feed our increasing appetite for oil with alternative fuels.