Speaking yesterday at the Department of Energy, President Bush said, "We can all pitch in…by being better conservers of energy. I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they’re able to maybe not drive when they — on a trip that’s not essential, that would helpful." The good news is that Bush has acknowledged the value of conservation. The bad news is that the country, struggling under the burden of high gas prices, needs more than limp sloganeering. President Bush has consistently rejected legislative and regulatory policies that would result in significant energy conservation. (In 2001, Vice President Cheney said "conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it’s not a basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.") Nothing in his comments yesterday indicated that Bush is ready to change course.
Bush’s comments yesterday — encouraging the country to skip non-essential trips — raised questions about his own recent travel habits. Today, Bush embarks on his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast this month. (According to the Air Force, "fuel costs for Air Force One have risen to $6,029 per hour, up from $3,974 an hour in the last budget year.") White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the president took the trips because he needed "to provide support or encouragement to lift the spirits of all those who have been working around the clock to help people in need."