President George W. Bush announced his plans to deal with rising gas costs Tuesday.
Bush said he would be halting the deposit of oil to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a government-owned cache of crude oil.
“He’s a little late, doing that,” said Kevin Harris a senior majoring in political science at Howard University. “That’s a very short-term fix. And it’s not going to have a big effect on prices €” it’s just window dressing the problem. That’s a minor step that could have been taken months ago.”
“Every little bit helps,” Bush said at the press conference, although analysts agree that the difference made will be minute.
Harris believes that Bush is attempting to turn around his approval rating. “He’s only doing this because his polls are hitting rock-bottom,” Harris said. “Two years ago, he was completely against [halting the deposits], and now he’s for it. Nothing’s changed, but he needs the points.”
Putting the blame squarely on Bush is unfair, however, Harris says. It’s an American issue. “We had an energy dependency problem under Clinton, too.”
“Our addiction to oil is a matter of national security concern,” Bush said.
Although the statement was explicitly about the near-record prices for gas, it may also be relevant to foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.
While Iraq does not produce large amounts of oil, and has not for some time (due to U.S. sanctions), talk of war in Iran – the fifth highest oil-producing nation in the world – has some speculating that gas prices will only go higher.
“The instability in the Middle East is affecting oil prices,” Harris said.
The speculation that there may be a war there has many people scared as well.
In addition, it is not just the Middle East, Harris said. “Nigeria is the fifth country that we receive oil from, and there is instability there, too.”
Hilary Johnson, a graduate of Spelman College, native of North Carolina and resident of Atlanta, says that gas prices, which have been steadily rising since she was in school, add up to a huge bill, annually.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “It costs so much to fill up my tank, and I have to drive everywhere in Atlanta, it’s so spread out. And don’t get me started on trips home to Raleigh.”
Johnson is “disgusted” with the Administration’s handling of the gas situation. “They’ve waited so long to fix it that it’s almost too late to make a big change. Bush knows that gas prices are going to be on people’s minds this summer, and he’s hoping to appease the public to help his approval rating.”
With gas topping three dollars a gallon in some parts of the country (and steadily inching toward that price in others), many are choosing to stay in, and use public transit whenever possible.
“I’m looking in to taking MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) more often,” Johnson said. “I’m upset that it’s come to this €” having a car, but not being able to use it.”