Bush Sr. Said “Drive Smart”; Today, Conservatives Drive Dumb

Facts be damned, Sen. John McCain keeps mocking the idea that steps such as proper tire inflation would have more of an impact immediately on lowering gas prices than offshore drilling.

“He’s claiming putting air in your tires is the equivalent of new offshore drilling,” McCain said at a campaign event Thursday. “That’s not an energy plan, my friends — that’s a public service announcement.”

Uh, yeah — like the public service announcement George Bush Sr. launched during his presidency to confront a spike in energy prices.

Jeremy Funk at Americans United for Change uncovered these gems from 1990:

The Bush administration yesterday launched an advertising blitz telling Americans they could fight oil shortages and high gas prices by conserving, while advising Congress there is no sign of price gouging by the oil industry and that gas prices are “not unreasonable.”

The slogan for the yearlong campaign, “Do Your Part, Drive Smart,” tells consumers they can save more than 7 million gallons of gasoline a day if they keep their tires properly inflated, drive slower and join car pools.

“The president has called upon Americans to do their part ‘to conserve,’ ” Energy Secretary James D. Watkins said in Boston yesterday afternoon. “Our intention is to give people simple steps they can take immediately and have direct impact on fuel savings.”

“Ad blitz launched to fight oil shortage,” The Washington Times, September 14, 1990

One television ad, which will be broadcast later this year, shows a gigantic oil gusher that is not coming from a well, but bursting forth from the valve on a tire. The announcer tells viewers that by slightly increasing the air pressure slightly in their tires, they can save 50,000 barrels of oil each day.

Like past conservation campaigns, the new one tries to get motorists to drive more slowly. A print ad pictures a gasoline pedal and tells motorists that when they step on the gas they should use their heads because if American drivers reduced their normal highway cruising speed by just five miles an hour, it would save two million barrels of oil a day.

— “Crisis Spurs Campaign To Save Oil,” The New York Times, September 14, 1990

The “Drive Smart” campaign displayed a level of common sense and a willingness to engage the country in a sense of shared responsibility that has not been embraced by the younger Bush and is being ridiculed by the McCain campaign and conservative leaders. It’s akin to the “take your tax cut and go shopping” message the junior Bush gave the country after 9/11, which has brought us to the brink of economic disaster.

While conservatives stomp their feet clamoring “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” (fine print: Pay a few pennies less, 10 to 15 years from now), we could invest in a serious education program that would encourage conservation — on the road, at work and in the home. Conservatives in Congress could allow votes on measures that would pour money into alternative energy development and help people struggling with increased energy costs, instead of insisting that we must have offshore drilling or nothing at all.

McCain ought to use his “Obama energy plan” tire gauge to check the air pressure on the tires of his “Straight Talk Express” bus. If he and his fellow conservatives believe that the best way to break our oil addiction is to hunt for more oil and ridicule conservation, their thinking is a few PSI short of fully inflated.


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