I was already planning on posing that question when I came across this passage from David Frum's The Right Man, as quoted in the LRB piece I link to below. Frum, you may remember, was Bush's speechwriter who went on to pen a bit of kiss-and-tell about his erstwhile boss. The book was mostly hagiographic in tone, but did allow as how W had a few faults; namely, "He is impatient and quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious (sic) and as a result ill informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader probably should be." No! Really?
Anyway, the passage I wanted to highlight is this one in which Frum reports:
I once made the mistake of suggesting to Bush that he use the phrase cheap energy to describe the aims of his energy policy. He gave me a sharp, squinting look, as if he were trying to decide whether I was the stupidest person he’d heard from all day or only one of the top five. Cheap energy, he answered, was how we had got into this mess. Every year from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s, American cars burned less and less oil per mile travelled. Then in about 1995 that progress stopped. Why? He answered his own question: because of the gas-guzzling SUV. And what had made the SUV possible? This time I answered. ‘Um, cheap energy?’ He nodded at me. Dismissed.Well, there's also this little thing known as CAFE standards that went years without being revised upward (and which the president pretended he didn't have the authority to revise), but the underlying point stands. Theoretically, at least, cheap energy is energy that will be wasted. So back to my question: High gas prices -- good thing or bad?