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Jewish World Review July 5, 2000 / 2 Tamuz, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports

Big Al and big oil -- AS PRESIDENT CLINTON'S gifted policy and scandal trainee, Al Gore has proven himself to be a quick study. Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent flap over rising fuel prices.

As the administration's second term comes to a close, the price of gasoline has skyrocketed, especially in the Midwest. It just so happens that the electoral votes in Midwestern states promise to be pivotal in this year's presidential election. Gore can scarcely afford to allow this last-minute economic glitch to interfere with his destiny to be president.

So, Gore has lashed out at evil oil companies and Governor Bush while ignoring his administration's inarguable role in the inflated prices. Last week, Gore said the nation was "vulnerable to big oil interests trampling on the public interest." Saying the oil industry's profits are "outrageous," he demanded an investigation into its supposed antitrust violations. "It takes somebody who is independent from Big Oil to take on Big Oil, and I'm independent from them."

There are so many things objectionable about Gore's statements, I hardly know where to begin. While Gore is a presidential candidate, he is also the sitting vice president. Public officials have a fiduciary duty not to attack the citizens or entities they serve without some legitimate basis. It is wholly improper for Gore to accuse oil companies of price fixing (a criminal violation) when he has absolutely no evidence to support his charge and when he is riddled with conflicts of interest in the matter.

Gore is up to his ears in this one. Yes, rising gas prices could hurt him in the election, but there's more to it than that. This administration has recklessly myopic environmental policies and virtually no energy policy. Its environmental regulations and hostility toward domestic oil exploration has made this country much more vulnerable to foreign oil and OPEC.

Gore can't distance himself from these policies. He has been wrapping himself up in environmental issues since writing "Earth in the Balance." If it can be shown that the administration's environmental policies in some cases have been shortsighted and damaging, Gore will take a double hit, one for being an integral player, and another for being an environmental zealot.

He deserves the double whammy. This administration, with Gore leading the rhetorical charge, has proceeded with onerous clean air regulations that require certain major cities with the worst pollution to begin using reformulated gasoline. These standards, which vary from area to area, are believed to have contributed greatly to the price hikes in Midwestern states.

EPA chief Carol Browner refused to suspend these regulations even temporarily, preferring to join the administration's baseless chorus against oil companies. It's not difficult to see why. If the suspended regulations were to lead to price reductions, the administration and the EPA would be exposed as the culprits. Once again, the nation's best interests must take a back seat to political agendas and campaigns.

Gore was also instrumental in the 4.3 cent federal gas tax increase, having cast the tie vote in the Senate. He steadfastly opposed oil drilling in the Wildlife Refuge in Northern Alaska, and supported Clinton's executive order prohibiting roadways in 43 million acres of government lands, which will make exploration nearly impossible there. Finally, Bill Bradley, when running against Gore for the nomination, accused the administration of asking OPEC to raise oil prices to help Russia. Gore, of course, has been hands-on in the administration's policies toward Russia.

Oh, and there's one other thing -- involving (believe it or not) an element of corruption. The Washington Times has reported that Gore pushed to privatize a federal oil field so that it could be sold to Occidental Petroleum, a company in which his father's trust owns $500,000 worth of shares. The acquisition caused the value of the shares to jump 10 percent. After his mother, Gore is the sole beneficiary.

It's really no wonder Gore is trying so hard to blame the oil companies and George Bush for this sorry record. Wouldn't it be ironic if the environmental crusader were ultimately undone through his policies toward and ties to big oil? Given Bush's consistent refusal to serve as Gore's latest punching bag, Albert Jr. may end up being very sorry he raised such a ruckus over big oil.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.



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