- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

In an about-face remarkable even by Clinton administration standards, the president announced Friday that the government is releasing 30 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to forestall skyrocketing home heating oil prices this winter. One would have thought Vice President Al Gore would be the first to take issue with the move. After all, it was Mr. Gore who pointed out earlier this year, "All they [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC] would have to do is cut back a little bit on supply, and they'd wipe out any impact from releasing oil from that reserve."
But no, Mr. Gore is all in favor of it now. "You should never have to depend on the goodwill of the big oil companies just to heat your home or drive down the highway," Mr. Gore said at a campaign stop in Maryland Thursday. "We cannot just wait around. Families need action now." Perhaps not coincidentally, analysts expect oil prices to start trickling downward just about election time, when Mr. Gore is counting on heating oil-dependent Northeastern voters to help him defeat George W. Bush. That assumes, of course, that OPEC does not reduce its own production, as Mr. Gore once worried.
It's pretty bracing, in an alternate universe sort of way, to wake up and find Al Gore Al Gore demanding relief for Americans from escalating petroleum prices. Is this the same Mr. Gore who authored the doomsday environmentalist tract, "Earth in the Balance" in which he waxed threateningly about the perils of our energy-dependent, oil-suffused society and urged higher motor fuels taxes, among other "wrenching" but "necessary" austerity measures? Has the vice president had a change of heart? Or is he merely in the midst of yet another incredibly cynical campaign season turnabout one that will almost certainly be abandoned the moment the election is decided?
Bringing energy relief to the American people is an excellent idea but to hear Al Gore demanding it is like reading the U.S. Communist Party's newspaper the day after the conclusion of the Ribbentrop-Molotov nonaggression pact between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia was signed. Overnight, the Nazis "loathsome fascists" became "comrades in the worker's struggle." Will people actually take seriously the idea that Mr. Gore who has said that the internal combustion engine poses a "mortal threat" to the planet now believes in lowering the cost of the fuels that feed these evil despoilers of the planet? Isn't home heating oil a major contributor to "global warming" and how can a good environmentalist even consider making it easier and cheaper for people to burn the dread stuff?
"… I'm not satisfied when the oil to heat your home becomes more a luxury and not a simple affordable necessity," the vice president droned. "I'm not satisfied when filling up your gas tank feels like a major purchase." Please. Who actually buys this rap? Texas Gov. George W. Bush called the Gore proposal "a cynical political ploy" and argued, "The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply, or for war." He went on to say that it should "not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security."
As for Mr. Gore, perhaps at his next campaign stop he will advocate drilling for oil in the "environmentally sensitive" Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). Voters gulled by his blather about "not being satisfied" with the current energy situation and the evil machinations of the "big oil interests" might swallow that one, too.

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