Bush Campaign Lies

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #51: Kerry's Energy Policy Obstruction 

Have you noticed gas prices lately? They're at record highs. And so what better way for the Bush administration to deflect some of the heat they're taking for this, than to insist that things would be even worse under President Kerry?

Their charges are kind of confused. First, they provide the misleading Kerry quote from 2000 in which he said that releasing some of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is 'not relevant' (see lie #47). Then they point out that other Democrats are demanding a release from the SPR. If this is supposed to prove that Kerry's a fool for saying that a release from SPR is 'not relevant', it fails because in 2000, Kerry was concerned about heating oil, not gasoline --- and Kerry does believe that we should stop filling SPR since it's more than 90% full, which is slightly different than taking oil out of it. Pacific Business News reports that this is the approach oil industry analysts recommend. On the other hand, if it's supposed to show that Kerry is 'obstructing' good energy policy because he disagrees with other Democrats about releasing the oil, then Bush is even more of an obstructionist, since he adamantly insists on filling SPR.

So, I don't understand the point of that item.

The next charge is that although Kerry claims that he wants to 'aggressively develop oil and gas supplies' and 'develop renewable fuels', he opposes drilling in ANWR and missed the vote on Bush's energy bill. Funny thing about that, though. You only really need to show up to vote for bills you support, and even the Bush folks acknowledge that Kerry would have voted against it.

Again, this sounds like a good argument proving that Kerry is obstructionist. But the full context of the Kerry quote cited above is that Kerry wants to 'Continue to aggressively develop oil and gas supplies in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and other places "where it makes economic and environmental sense to do so."' So really, what we see is that Kerry gives a damn about the environment, while the Republicans see it as an 'obstruction'. For someone who does care about the environment, national security, public health and sounds energy policy, voting against the Energy Bill is a no-brainer. See lie #43.

Finally, they wrap up their presentation by asserting that Kerry 'Supported Higher Gas Taxes At Least 11 Times As Senator Including A 50 Cent Increase'. We've demonstrated on many occasions how Senate votes can be twisted into weapons against somebody, but in this case, the Republicans are extra cagey, in that they don't actually provide references to the votes they cite. We'll see why later.

Four of the votes they list concern the same piece of legislation, the 1993 Budget Reconciliation Act. This is a huge piece of legislation (over 1600 pages as a PDF document), and ordinarily I'd argue that it's ridiculous to cherry-pick two items out of a bill that size and draw firm conclusions about it. Except that this was Bill Clinton's famous deficit-reduction bill, which contained a number of tax increases, which every single Republican voted against. Since deficit reduction was its main emphasis, it's fair to conclude that by voting for it, Kerry supported the deficit reduction measures in it. Unlike Bush, Kerry takes deficit reduction seriously.

Also, one of the best ways to 'develop renewable fuels' is to place a consumption tax on non-renewable energy sources --- like gasoline --- to give people an incentive to create and use renewable fuel technologies. So Kerry's support for these taxes further undermines the 'obstructionist' claim.

Anyway, Kerry voted for the initial Senate passage of the bill, and then again for the version reconciled with the House. The bill contained both a 4.3 cent per gallon deficit reduction tax, and a 5.267 cent per gallon BTU consumption tax (the Republicans report this as a 7.5 cent tax, but I don't know where they get that). So that's four of the votes. (He also voted against an amendment which would have raised gas taxes to pay for emergency relief. Why don't the Republicans mention this?) He also voted to kill an amendment which would have stripped out the 4.3 cent per gallon tax. So that's five.

Then the GOP claims that Kerry voted against repealing the 4.3 cent per gallon tax on at least four occasions. That appears to be true, although it's worth noting that Senate Republicans agreed with Kerry on one of those votes, by a margin of 37-16. That brings the total to nine.

They claim that in 2000, Kerry voted against a 150-day suspension of the gas tax. That's true, bringing the total to ten.

Where's the last one? Well, the GOP tell us that in 1994, Kerry supported a 50-cent per gallon gas tax. But where's the vote? Oh! There isn't one! That explains why the GOP don't reference Kerry's votes, like they usually do, because they don't want to reveal this fact. And that's why they only tell you that Kerry 'supported' higher gas taxes, not that he voted for them.

No, Kerry never voted for a 50-cent a gallon gas tax, and he never sponsored or otherwise supported legislation of that kind. And he hasn't expressed any kind of support for such a tax since 1994. The Republicans know it, too. They also know that he doesn't support such a tax now.

However, the Chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers wrote an article supporting a 50-cent per gallon gas tax in 1999.

11:29 PM