"Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."
-- The President of the United States of America
Why have gasoline prices doubled in a year? Demand hasn't doubled. Supplies are the same. I have this horrible feeling -- having lived through the 2000 California electricity crisis -- that we're being gamed.
Back then, as now, we were told that the source of the problem was simple: A sudden -- but perfectly natural -- imbalance in supply and demand. And the solutions were simple too:
1) Eat it. Pay up, quit complaining, and learn to passively enjoy the mysterious jerks and undulations of the free market, like listening to your roommates have sex.
Back in 2000, Californians were also introduced to two ideas about electricity that have come back with a vengeance with gas:
1) Not only is there nothing wrong with higher prices, they actually prove that the market works.
2) The energy companies would love to charge less, if only the Democrats and the environmentalists would change a few laws.
Try keeping both of those ideas in your head at the same time. ExxonMobil has a sacred obligation to its shareholders to charge the maximum price the market will bear and they'd cut prices in a second, as a present -- as patriots -- if you'd just let them bespoil Alaska.
I can't completely reconcile those theories, myself. I should probably listen to more talk radio. Except the radio's in my car, and I can't afford to drive.
So Californians paid high prices for power. We're still paying. And we threw out the governor and replaced him with this kind of wizened homunculus who used to play robots. But that's neither here nor there. In 2002, after the crisis passed, we found out it had had an even simpler cause than we'd thought:
It had been entirely cooked up by some company in Houston called Enron.
Fool me once and -- uh -- hasta la vista! I'll be back!
When Marx talked about the fetishism of commodities, he probably wasn't picturing Senator David Vitter getting diapered by a call girl, but that's his loss. Not only did Louisiana's junior Senator emerge from his scandal cleaner than a baby's bottom, but he's still in office, and he's come up with an energy plan.
It's called The Enough Act. Because "enough" is the safe word he uses when he's being spanked too hard. No, there's no evidence that that's true. David Vitter's plan is called The Enough Act because E.N.O.U.G.H. stands for Energy Needed Offshore Under Gas Hikes.
Here's how Vitter says it works:
The ENOUGH Act would trigger increased energy exploration off a state's own coast once the price of regular gasoline reaches $5 a gallon. Once the ENOUGH Act's trigger is reached, it allows a governor, with the concurrence of the state legislature, to petition for increased energy exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf.
It makes a kind of brutish sense if you don't think about it too hard. He's not saying that the Gulf of Mexico isn't a fragile ecosystem, or that we shouldn't honor the earth and water, and guard them as a holy trust. He's just saying once gas gets to five bucks, screw it. It's every plant and animal for himself.
Go ahead and scoff, you limousine liberals. Five dollars might not mean much where Nancy Pelosi lives, but where David Vitter comes from, five dollars is a blowjob.
But think about it for a second. Wouldn't ENOUGH actually reward the oil companies for raising the price of gas? They want to drill, but David Vitter -- consumer economics super genius -- won't let them until they charge at least five dollars a gallon first.
ENERGY EXECUTIVE #1: I feel so bad for our shareholders and the American motorist. I sure wish we could responsibly drill the fuck out of the Gulf of Mexico.
ENERGY EXECUTIVE #2: Sorry, Rex. I'd love to reduce America's dependence of foreign oil, too. But you know we can't have those leases... our gas only costs $4.96 and 9/10ths. And that's where it's going to stay.
ENERGY EXECUTIVE #1: Dang it!
Maybe someone should take David Vitter aside, and walk him through the meaning of "incentive."
Because, as written, the ENOUGH Act reads: "I want this donkey to go, and if it doesn't, I'm going to beat it with this carrot." No, that's not it. "I'm going to force feed it a carrot, and beat the consumer with a stick." Wait, no. "Fool me once..."
What happens if the price of gas goes up to five dollars, the drilling starts, and then the price magically drops? (That's what's supposed to happen when they drill, right?) Do we tear the rigs down and take the leases away?
ENERGY EXECUTIVE #1: Dang it!