Sen. Hillary Clinton sometimes talks as if she wants oil and gas to be cheap and abundant, but she never stops working to make them expensive and scarce.
But there's a key to predicting when she will start gushing about America's need for inexpensive fossil fuels. Call it Hillary's hurricane rule: When a storm interrupts oil and gas supplies from the Gulf Coast, she becomes an instant gas-pump populist.
Flash back to Sept. 28, 2004. A headline in that day's New York Times read: "Oil Nears $50 as Gulf Storms Curtail Output." Crude oil, it said, had hit its highest price since oil began trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983.
Noting that the Gulf region provides a quarter of domestic oil production, the report attributed the high price of crude to a tight margin between global supply and demand, reports of political instability in foreign oil-producing regions and the fact "that one-third of daily production in the Gulf of Mexico is still being disrupted from the effects of Hurricane Ivan," which had struck the week before.
Mrs. Clinton seems to have read this report. "This is the highest price per barrel of oil since oil began trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange 21 years ago," she said that day.
But while lamenting that the average driver would "pay $300 more for gas this year than last," she did not blame tight supplies or Hurricane Ivan. She blamed "big oil" and the current administration's energy policy. "(W)e've seen big oil's profits continue to go up," she said. "It's clear that our dependence on foreign oil and the lack of an energetic energy policy to move us from dependence to independence has taken a toll on us."
So, what has Mrs. Clinton done as a U.S. senator to decrease dependence on foreign oil and advance an "energetic" energy policy?
She has opposed drilling in any part of the massive Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). She has opposed new drilling off our coasts. She has even opposed drilling for natural gas in New York's Finger Lakes National Forest, co-sponsoring a bill that would permanently ban such drilling.
Except when hurricanes cause sudden spikes in oil prices, Mrs. Clinton finds it politically expedient to tailor both her rhetoric and actions to the elitist aims of her environmentalist friends.
"I have voted against opening (ANWR) to drilling at every opportunity during my time in the Senate," she boasts on her website.
In 2003, Oceana, an environmentalist group associated with actor Ted Danson, gave her an award at a star-studded Hollywood dinner. "Clinton," said a release about the award, "joined California Sens. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to strike provisions in the Energy Bill that would have undermined current protections against new offshore drilling along California and other coastal states."
Between last year's and this year's hurricane seasons, Mrs. Clinton again voted against drilling in ANWR and against the energy bill -- even though it did not open ANWR or any new offshore areas to drilling. She also declared her opposition to a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound that would help New Yorkers import the fuel they need to heat their homes -- fuel that Mrs. Clinton opposes letting them drill in Finger Lakes National Forest.
In a July speech to the Democratic Leadership Council, she described her government-funded "American dream" for the year 2020. "Public and private investment in energy research and development has made America the world leader in clean, efficient energy use," she said, envisioning her Utopia. "Cars and trucks are powered by advanced hybrid engines, bio-fuels, fuel cells and clean diesel engines. Windmills and other renewable energy sources are generating 20 percent of our electricity." But she said nothing about allowing private enterprise to develop new domestic sources of oil and gas.
Then Katrina hit -- and the gas-pump populist was back.
"I want to go after the oil companies and the oil speculators and the manipulators of the money, because they're the ones who I think are really behind this," she said last week, calling for a Federal Trade Commission investigation of gas prices. "I am tired of being at the mercy of people in the Middle East and elsewhere, and I'm tired frankly of being at the mercy of these large oil companies."
Truth is, whether she is seeking to curtail the oil supply as the great environmentalist or curtail oil prices as a gas-pump populist, Mrs. Clinton would put us all at the mercy of a bigger, more controlling government. No hurricane can be expected to change her dream of that.