It always seems to take me a bit of time to understand President Bush's State of the Union address. Before you can really let things sink in as to what he said you have to wait for the inevitible "well that's what he said but here's what he really meant" round of press conferences. You see, it seems that the President's speech writers seem to assume that the vast majority of the electorate is ill-informed sheep who need to only understand the sound bites otherwise the message gets confused in their tiny little brains. So plEase read on in this article taken from Knight-Ridder...then follow the logic all the way through. I think you'll like the plot twist at the end...
Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.
But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that's where the greatest oil supplies are.
The president's State of the Union reference to Mideast oil made headlines nationwide Wednesday because of his assertion that "America is addicted to oil" and his call to "break this addiction."
Bush vowed to fund research into better batteries for hybrid vehicles and more production of the alternative fuel ethanol, setting a lofty goal of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."
He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."
Not exactly, though, it turns out.
"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.
He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.
Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble."
Well, you say, that is understandable. Let's forgive the President for him dumbing down his speech. Afterall, we've all seen the Leno and Letterman's asking questions like: "Who was George Washington?" on President's Day and getting answers like "Didn't he win a grammy like, 10 years ago, or something?" So can we really fault the President for trying to make all Americans understand?
With the number of troops deployed around the world and many people knowing people with friends deployed I am personally inclined to believe that many many more people are aware of world politics than the President's speech writers give credit. Yes, there are the retired folks in Flordida and Arizona watching Fox and grumbling at there 3PM dinner meetings, and yes, they do vote, but I suspect that there are a lot of 18-25 year olds who vote and are also reading blog sites and listening to iTunes. I don't think that group need to spoken down to.
They are probably the ones asking the questions like the following interplay from the Press Conference that the Knight Ridder article is based upon....
"Q Hi, gentlemen, I had two questions. The first is, with the goal of reducing the reliance on Middle Eastern oil, sort of, to what end? Is the idea to weaken Middle Eastern nations? Or is the idea to reduce the U.S. need to be involved in Middle East affairs? And won't China and India just gobble up all that oil and won't it be a wash?
SECRETARY BODMAN: Let me try that, and then I may ask Al if he wants to comment on it.
The idea here -- the President, in using that example, was to just simply do that, to give an example of what would be accomplished if we are successful in the combination of the plug-in hybrids, of hybrids, the availability of ethanol in the quantities that we have mentioned, and have been successful with the hydrogen car in the year 2025. All of those things are assumed to be successful, which we hope they will be. We're going to work hard to see to it that they will be.
Oil is a commodity, you're quite right in suggesting that, that we would continue as a nation. Most of the purchases of oil in this country are done by the private sector. Thankfully, they're not done by the federal government. And they're done by people who are in these markets every day, that are very good at it, and they would make judgments as to where they would optimize whatever business they had at that point in time.
So this was, as I say, is purely an example. It was not mean to suggest anything related to the politics of the situation, other than to indicate that, presumably, at that point in time, if we see changes and we see a more stable situation, where one is buying from a more stable supplier, presumably one would rather do business with a more stable supplier rather than a less stable supplier. So as the world evolves over the next 20 years, I would think that you would see more interest in one supplier rather than another, but it was merely meant to give an example.
Q Mr. Secretary, I would just like to follow up real quickly, because I still don't really get it. I mean, I guess what I'm trying to get to is, even if the private sector does oil purchases, the President must have either a domestic or a foreign policy goal. Is the goal national security, geopolitical dominance, or a concern that the world is going to run out of oil? I mean, I don't really understand. Are we --
SECRETARY BODMAN: Let me try again. Oil is a commodity. It is traded on the world market. Its prices change minute by minute. As we sit here today, it's changing in the various markets of the world. The President's goal, it seems to me -- I haven't asked him specifically this -- but it seems to me is an improvement in our national security that would come from a more readily available supply of domestic motor fuel. And so that's the goal, so that we would therefore be less dependent on the supply of motor fuel from countries that are less able than we would like to see them.
But it's not a matter of world domination, it's not a matter of anything other than trying to improve the security of our country by broadening the availability, the domestic availability of motor fuels and, therefore, lessening the reliance on foreign producers.
DIRECTOR HUBBARD: And just to expand on that, the goal is energy independence. And what the President is saying is by -- we believe there's a very good chance that with these new technologies we will be able to reduce the imports of our oil enough to the equivalent to what we currently project to be 75 percent of what we would have imported from the Middle East. But the goal is to -- you know, beyond 2025, is to continue to achieve more and more energy independence, and this will occur through new technologies.
And, obviously, the big one in the '20s, beginning in the early '20s is the hydrogen car, which the goal there is to have a commercially viable hydrogen car by the early '20s."
Okay, now we're at least at the real starting point. We've got a good understanding of what the President SAID and WHAT HE MEANT! Now, let's look at it from some other perspectives. Let's pretend that you are the family man in the Gaza Strip trying to cross the border every day to make money to afford some food. How does this affect you when you hear the President say we'll be replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."? "Wow" he might say, "it's a good thing we jsut voted for Hamas 'cause they provide me health care and police and keep the peace...what a nightmare it's going to be in Saudi Arabia!!!"
Can you understand why he would say that? Think about it. Outside of oil what industry does the 'Middle East" have going for them? There's a lot of sand and not much of anything else. In Saudi Arabia for example 37% of the population is under the age of 15. The population is approximately 25M people right now and expected to grow to 37M by 2025 (www.prb.org). So over 1/3 of the population in Saudi Arabia is under that age fo 15. What do you think that 15 year old heard on the news? He heard the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES say "We'll be replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." That 15 year old stops, looks around and sees the poverty that he lives in now. Sees how his country's oil wealth has been squandered and realizes that it is only going to get worse.
So are you surprised to read the following:
"Saudi surprise at Bush oil call"
Sunday 05 February 2006, 22:24 Makka Time, 19:24 GMT
President George Bush's call to reduce America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil has sparked "serious concern" in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's ambassador to Washington has said.
"I was taken aback," Prince Turki al-Faisal told CNN television in an interview on Sunday. He was commenting on Bush's State of the Union speech last Tuesday in which he said America needed to end its addiction to oil. Expressing his suprise, al-Faisal said he had brought up Saudi concerns over the speech with White House officials. "This is something that is of serious concern to us because oil is our major income earner," the prince said.
Do you think the speech writeres knew what they where doing? Do you think they realized the implications on the Arab Street? Do you think they knew it would add fuel to the fire? If you've ever seen a Tom Clancy book made into a movie I think you can appreciate the sublteties of statecraft. Of course they knew. But why in God's name WOULD THEY DO IT?