Today's bastard is a familiar one... Yes, once again President George W. Bush is the Bastard of the Day. Only a tool of the petroleum industry could look at current gasoline prices, weigh them against record profits for the oil companies (Exxon made the greatest profit of any company in history last year), and decide that the problem is that environmental requirements are too strict!
Frankly, I'm a free market guy when it comes to gas (not so much when it comes to other things, like healthcare). I live in the city, I use public transportation, and I walk to the grocery store unless I'm stocking up on heavy stuff. My wife drive 3.5 miles to work and I work at home (of course, last summer working on my book was a different story). We go through a tank of gas every 10-14 days, so a few extra dollars at the pump won't kill us (don't bother telling me that all prices will go up because of oil prices; I've already written about that). I think gas is still too cheap in America, and cheap gas has been abetting suburban sprawl and poor land use decisions for too long. Americans would be better off living closer together instead of being isolated in McMansions and driving ridiculous distances to work to pay for them. Automobiles are such a part of American mythology that they symbolize freedom when in fact, people are slaves to purchasing, fueling, insuring, and maintaining them.
Bush and his henchmen are almost always free market true believers. Heck, Republicans have been deregulating everything in sight since the Reagan years, all in the name of almighty free market capitalism. So we shouldn't be surprised that the only time Bush is willing to interfere with free markets is when he can strip away more of those pesky environmental regulations, the ones that coincidentally restrain the greenhouse effect, which Bush will tell you doesn't exist.
Of course, that's not all Bush is doing. He is also going to stop contributing to our strategic petroleum reserve to make more oil available. But Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi says that a supply shortage is not the reason for high oil prices. And isn't this the same strategic petroleum reserve that Bush scoffed at Gore for proposing to draw from in order to lower oil prices six years ago? You can say there is a difference between not contributing oil to it and withdrawing oil from it, but isn't that really just splitting hairs?
Bush also talks a good game about alternative fuels. But if he had promoted those fuels when he came into office rather than jumping on the bandwagon only this year, we would be a lot closer to actually using those alternatives today.
For what it's worth, the experts agree with me that Bush isn't really solving any problems here. He's just making life a little easier (and richer) for his cronies, the underlying objective of every policy decision he has ever made. For that, George "32% approval rating" Bush is a bastard, today and every day.
Postscript: I couldn't help laughing at the photo Reuters chose for the expert story linked above: "Gas prices are displayed at a 76 station in Beverly Hills, California, April 25, 2006." Do you think the average American is shedding any tears over high prices in Beverly Hills?!? Well, okay, maybe there are maids and landscapers who work there shedding tears, but that's about it.
UPDATE 04/26/2006 - Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch dispels several of Bush's myths about the oil industry and high gas prices.