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Appeasement in Austria
June 1, 2001

Now that the "new tone" in Washington has gone the way of the Republicans' Senate majority, the Uniter Not a Divider needs a new focus for his charm offensive. Mr. Daschle is busy meeting with John McCain, and Sen. Kennedy is not a t-ball fan, so the President has opted to take Operation Conciliation on the road. Next stop: Vienna.

The OPEC ministers preparing for this week's confab in the Austrian capital should pack their most sheepish excuses. With prices nearing $30/barrel, the gouging has gotten indefensible, and the cartel's top customer just brought in a Texas oilman who promised to "open the spigot." American outrage should be the first order of business, but this week the ministers can save their contrite speeches for another day. The U.S. negotiators have their orders: speak softly and leave your sticks at home.

The New York Times says of our supine posture that "the Bush White House has opted for a gentler approach to its key oil-rich allies." Rather than being furious that production cuts have forced pump prices to an average $1.74/gallon, the Administration "has absolved OPEC of any role in pushing up fuel prices and instead blamed a limited refining capacity at home." How exactly did we get "a limited refining capacity?" By patronizing the same cartel now looting American consumers. In the 1970s, when we depended on foreign suppliers for 36% of our oil, an Arab boycott hobbled our economy. Rather than acting on that wake-up call and decreasing dependence, we walled off recoverable reserves, over-regulated domestic drilling, and did nothing to protect American suppliers from OPEC dumping. As a result, we now import 54% of our oil. Over the last 15 years, domestic production has dropped by 2.7 million barrels per day.

As long as OPEC's price-fixing schemes hold the world oil market hostage, Americans will pay dearly, and if Mr. Bush thinks the conspirators will be converted by goodwill, he forgets his history. Who are the nations represented in Vienna? Kuwait and Saudi who we defended during the Gulf War; Mexico, saved from economic collapse by a $50 billion American bailout; Indonesia, beneficiary of a $40 billion U.S.-sponsored aid package; Nigeria, recipient of $50 million in U.S. foreign aid -- all nations that should be in America's debt and are instead tightening a noose around our neck.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham says, "We reject privately begging or publicly bashing to get more oil." Fine. On behalf of the American public, we also reject privately appeasing and publicly accommodating. "Can't we all just get along," didn't hold the Senate, and honeyed words won't open a pipeline.

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