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Republicans Insist Nation Is Helpless on Oil Prices

Reported by Judy - July 8, 2006 -

For a party that supposedly supports private initiative and individualism, Republicans on Fox News Saturday (July 8, 2006) were surprisingly defeatist when it comes to oil and natural gas prices, insisting nothing can be done to affect prices.

On "Cavuto on Business," substitute host Dagen McDowell of Fox News claimed Democrats are "promising cheaper gas if you vote for them in November. Can they deliver?" Beyond that, McDowell offered few details of the Democratic energy plan, helping to bolster the impression that they really have no suggestions for action and are only against drilling for oil in pristine areas of the country.

"There is absolutely nothing they can do," insisted Republican Ben Stein. Gas prices are shaped by worldwide supply and demand, he said, and "all the Democrats do is get on the backs of the oil companies and harass them and make their lives more difficult. There is nothing they can do."

John Layfield, a pro wrestler and conservative talk radio host, also claimed "Democrats bring nothing to the table" on energy prices because they are beholden to labor unions in Detroit and can't support higher fuel efficiency standards. Layfield apparently is ignorant of the vigorous fight that conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation put up against CAFE standards. Stein also insisted that the benefit of higher CAFE standards "would be trivial."

Gregg Hymowitz, a Democrat and head of Entrust Capital, countered that prices are set by demand as well as by supply, and Democratic proposals to lower demand by stressing alternative fuels can ease pressure on prices. Furthermore, he said, the mess George Bush has made of the Middle East has caused investors to factor a risk premium into the price of a barrel of oil, and once Bush's disaster there is cleaned up, that risk premium should be reduced.

Stein's defeatism is his only option. He can't support the likes of the Sierra Club, which calls higher fuel efficiency standards the single biggest step the nation could take to saving energy and reducing global warming. And Layfield is wrong that Democratic ties to the unions are what is holding up tougher CAFE standards. Executives of the Big 3 automakers determine what cars will be built, not the line workers, and the executives are the ones who put their companies in violation of CAFE standards in 1997. But Stein and Layfield cannot call Republicans to account for refusing to stand up to big business and requiring the Big 3 to build more fuel efficient cars.

"We're just in a terrible mess," is all Stein could think of to say.

Voters already know that. How excited will they be about voting for a party with such a defeatist attitude?