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Buttner Tries to Blame Dems for High Gas Prices

Reported by Judy - April 29, 2006

Brenda Buttner must have skipped that part of her sixth grade civics class where they explained the "majority rule" part of how Congress works. How else to explain the ridiculous premise on which she based "Bulls and Bears" on Saturday (April 29, 2006): " You want lower gas prices. Some say vote against the Democrats who have blocked drilling for oil in Alaska, who have blocked building more refineries."

Last time I checked, the Democrats were the minority party and Republicans were in the majority in both houses of Congress. If nothing is happening, they're the ones to blame, not Democrats.

Nevertheless, Buttner knew whom she could count on to back up her bogus premise: Charles Payne, CEO of Wall Street Strategies. Should people vote against Democrats in the midterm elections if they want lower gas prices, asked Buttner.

"Absolutely, you have to vote aginst them. When it comes to politics and oil, if you’re not part of the solution, you are the problem," gushed Payne in his usual eager-to-please-his-rich-white-Republican-friends manner.

"It’s not just that they blocked a whole bunch of potential things that could have helped us, but the ideas they’re pushing forward, hybrid cars, or this type of gas, let’s hug the trees, everything costs the average person more money. They think the average person is like their rich liberal friends in Hollywood and they can afford to spend $11,000 on a Honda Accord hybrid."

After Payne's tirade, Buttner went to guest Alan Colmes, co-host of Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" and host of his own radio show on Fox News Radio. Colmes took the fight to Payne and Buttner.

"You're talking about one thing -- drilling in the tundra. That's all Republicans want to talk about. You're the ones who held up gas prices and keep them high. You got two oil guys in office, and it's outrageous, you want to ask the question by blaming the Democrats, give me a break," he said.

Payne actually got little support from the Republicans on the panel for his strident comments. Tobin Smith, of changewaveresearcher.com, and Scott Bleier, of hybrid investors.com, both claimed there had been 30 to 40 years of mismanagement of energy policy by both parties. Bleier even supported tax incentives to encourage companies to manufacture or sell ethanol and similar steps.

Gary B. Smith, of Exemplar Capital, however, was as ignorant as Buttner and Payne. At one point, he said, referring to Democrats, "If I had my druthers, they should be out of office and Republicans should be in."

Psssst. Gary. The Republicans ARE in office. They control all three branches of government. In economic terms, that's called a "monopoly," or a license to do whatever they want.

Pat Dorsey, of morningstar.com, pointed out that refinery opposition has been bipartisan, generally comes from people who live near refineries, regardless of party. And he said that refinery capacity has increased by expanding existing facilities rather than building new ones because expansion is generally cheaper.

Colmes made a few good points -- that the plan to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge would be only a temporary solution to high gas prices and would not produce enough oil to make the U.S. energy independent, that oil company profits that are reinvested in alternative energy could be exempt from tax to begin moving toward energy independence.

But, as he is all too often, Colmes had too few facts and figures at his fingertips. He might have familiarized humself with this set of charts showing trends in gas prices and oil company stock prices -- both follow generally upward trends over the last two years. No surprise there.

But Colmes might have benefited by being familiar with the third chart, showing oil and gas companies' contributions to Democrats and Republicans since 1990. Oil and gas companies have given far more money to Republicans than Democrats since 1990. In the year 2000, for example, oil and gas interests gave more than $25 million to Republican candidates, versus about $7 million to Democrats. This year, the ratio is about $6 million to Republicans and one million to Democrats.

If anybody has a vested interest in keeping oil and gas prices high, it's Republicans. If you want oil and gas prices to stay high, keep voting Republican.

Or, Colmes might have taken a glance at this chart from the U.S. Department of Energy, showing average weekly gas prices in the U.S. rising from $1.61 a gallon in January 2001 to $3.12 a gallon this week. And which party controlled the White House in those years again?

As Dorsey pointed out, neither party can repeal the law of supply and demand. But government can mitigate some of the pain. Although panelists generally pooh-poohed the idea of a rebate of gas taxes, it would be a short-term boost to parts of the country that depend on tourism during the summer driving months which otherwise could see their economies devastated if high gas prices keep people close to home.

And despite Payne's fear that government might tell business to do something, it would be in some businesses long-term best interests to make changes in how they do business now. Telling GM to build more fuel efficient cars will not drive them into bankruptcy. It could save the company from it. It makes plenty of fuel efficient cars, but the company's nitwit managers refuse to tell customers about them in snappy advertising campaigns that match those of Mazda and other companies. Instead, as gas prices pass $3 a gallon, GM sticks to advertising its big SUV's.

Payne and other Republicans have an irrational fear of alternative fuels. What difference does it make if your car runs on a battery part of the time, or on a blend of ethanol and gasoline? It is not the end of Western Civilization as we know it. It only is a threat to Big Oil, and people like Payne and Buttner are their pawns.

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