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No Push From Bush on Conservation

With gas prices eating deeper into family budgets, most experts agree that reducing demand through individual conservation would prove a much more immediate solution than increasing supply through increased drilling. Hell, even President George W. Bush said yesterday that conservation would remedy the current “imbalance” in energy supply and demand.

But if you think that means the president would call on Americans to be wise about their personal energy use, you’d be perfectly, 100-percent wrong. From the transcript of yesterday’s White House press conference:

REPORTER: [O]ne thing nobody debates is that if Americans use less energy the current supply/demand equation would improve. Why have you not sort of called on Americans to drive less and to turn down the thermostat?

BUSH: They’re smart enough to figure out whether they’re going to drive less or not. I mean, you know, it’s interesting what the price of gasoline has done, is it caused people to drive less. That’s why they want smaller cars, they want to conserve. But the consumer is plenty bright … The marketplace works.

[...]

REPORTER: But you don’t see the need to ask — you don’t see the value of your calling for a campaign –

BUSH: I think people ought to conserve and be wise about how they use gasoline and energy. Absolutely. And there’s some easy steps people can take. You know, if they’re not in their home, they don’t keep their air-conditioning running. There’s a lot of things people can do.

But … it’s a little presumptuous on my part to dictate to consumers how they live their lives. The American people are plenty capable and plenty smart people and they’ll make adjustments to their own pocketbooks.

Bush also pointed out how high gas prices are changing behavior, not only among consumers, but among Detroit’s automakers as well.

And as much as I regret that the gasoline prices are high — and they are — I also understand that people are going to make adjustments to meet their own needs … And as you notice, the automobile industry is beginning to adjust here at home as consumer demand changes.

As if on cue, General Motors yesterday announced a 20 percent pay reduction for salaried workers and the elimination of health care benefits for Medicare-eligible salaried retirees. That’s an adjustment all right, but few would argue it constitutes positive change. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Detroit had moved away from SUVs for reasons other than the threat of bankruptcy?

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