Bush: "I Need More Power"
Speaking at a "surprise" appearance at a Biloxi, MS gas station yesterday, President Bush said that part of his long-term plan to bring down high gas prices would be to raise fuel efficiency standards in cars. Some of us have been saying that for years, but alright, fine, welcome to the show - better late than never, Mr. President.
Here's the problem. Bush reverted to what seems to be this administration's default position when something needs to be done: give me the authority to do it. Just what Bush needs - more power. Apparently he wants Congress to delegate the authority to set fuel efficiency standards directly to the Administration; as Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta said yesterday "At the president's request, I hereby ask that the Congress take prompt action to authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to reform fuel economy standards for passenger automobiles."
Bush noted "It's an authority I used for light trucks, and I intend to use it wisely if Congress will give me that authority." Because you've used what authority you have so very wisely for the past six years, forgive me if I'm not leaping for joy.
Raising fuel efficiency standards is an absolutely crucial component of reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil and for lowering gas prices (in the long term, it will not help overnight). Congress should pass a framework that would lay out a progressive increase in standards over the next x-number of years, and then hand it over to the DoT for enforcement. Congress should not blithely hand over its authority and allow the DoT to set the rules itself.
Congress is currently falling all over itself to take whatever steps it can to look like it's doing something about gas prices (so long as it doesn't hurt the poor starving oil companies, of course - ExxonMobil's first-quarter earnings were only up 7% this year). The House and Senate ought to do their jobs and pass fuel efficiency reform. The President should then do his and enforce that reform.