Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bush wastes roughly $170,000 in jet fuel as he urges nation to conserve

From PNI Online:

Attytood exclusive: Bush wastes roughly $170,000 in jet fuel as he urges nation to conserve
Two other points I want to make is, one, we can all pitch in by using -- 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 federal government can help, and I've directed the federal agencies nationwide -- and here's some ways we can help. We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit. And we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation.
-- President George W. Bush, Sept. 26, 2005.
Just one day after President Bush urged Americans to cut back on needless travel and promised that the federal government would do the same, he boarded Air Force One for a trip to inspect hurricane damage that will burn up roughly 11,437 gallons of jet fuel, worth about $24,590 at today's record high fuel prices.
In fact, an investigation by Attytood -- using the best available numbers for Bush's travel since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, for the performance of Air Force One and for jet fuel prices -- estimates that Bush has spent $169,314 on jet fuel alone.
Bush has visited the Gulf region seven times, as well as an Air Force One flyover, since the Aug. 29 impact by Katrina, the most expensive national disaster in American history and one of the deadliest. But experts and even some White House officials have said the frequent trips have had as much or more to do with rebuilding the president's tarnished image than rebuilding the Gulf Coast.
Many of the trips seem targeted towards conveying television images of Bush as an involved leader. In fact, Bush's flight schedule last weekend was rearranged because, according to aides, Hurricane Rita had shifted course and the weather would be sunny in San Antonio. At several of the meetings that Bush has attended other officials have taken part by teleconferencing rather than by attending in person.
"Seven trips in a month -- what can he really do down there?," asked Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia political scientist and presidential pundit. He said the trips "are all about photo ops and reassurance and Clintonian moments of feeling people's pain."
The cost to taxpayers for all of Bush's storm related travel has been much higher. Some studies have placed the total cost of operating Air Force One at at least $56,800 an hour or more, meaning that Bush's hurricane related travel has cost taxpayers somewhere in the range of $2 million or more -- just for the air travel!
At the White House yesterday, presidential spokesman Scot McClellan sought to defend the seeming contradiction between Bush's call for conserving fuel and the frequent trips:
It's also for the President to not only get a first-hand account of how needs are being -- how the needs of the people are being met, but it's also important for him to provide some comfort and reassurance that we are going to do what we can to help get people back up on their feet and to lift the spirits of all those who are working around the clock to meet the enormous challenges that have been presented by these two hurricanes hitting in roughly the same area.
Here's a quick look at Bush's air travel since Hurricane Katrina. The jet fuel costs are based on today's price, according to a government survey, of $2.15 a gallon (jet fuel is less refined than gasoline and thus slightly cheaper):
Aug. 31: Air Force One flyover of Gulf region (rough estimate: 500 miles, $4,612)
Sept. 2: Trip to Mississippi, where he promised to rebuild Trent Lott's porch, and to the New Orleans airport and a damaged levee. (2,176 miles, $19,977)
Sept. 5: Trip to Baton Rouge to meet and reassure Katrina evacuees (2,288 miles, $21,101)
Sept. 11: Trip to New Orleans, where he rode throough flooded streets with La. governor and New Orleans mayor, and Gulfport (2,176 miles, $19,977)
Sept. 15: A trip to New Orleans so he could use Jackson Square as a scenic backdrop for a speech to the nation (2,176 miles, $19,977)
Sept. 20: Yet another trip to Mississippi and New Orleans (2,176 miles, $19,977)
Sept 23: Bush flies all the way to Colorado Springs to see military command, a meeting that was captured on film and appeared to be a prime candidate for videoconferencing, then onto Austin to see state emergency management for Hurricane Rita. (2,668 miles, $24,606)
Sept. 24: Bush flies to Baton Rouge for more checking out of storm operations, then home. (1,576 miles, $14,497)
Sept. 27: More storm damage inspecting in Beaumont and Lake Charles (2,666 miles [including eventual return home], $24,590). Funny, we saw a lot of storm damage, too -- by staying home and watching CNN.
Talk about your mixed messages. All Americans want a president who stays on top of a major natural disaster. But the best ways to do that are a) appointing smart people to key jobs like running FEMA and b) staying in touch with those people on the ground, preferably by telephone. It's not by wasting fuel on photo ops that demonstrate "leadership."
And we're only talking here about the jet fuel -- we haven't even gone into the White House's oversized motorcades, like the one that went to a retirement party last night for Gen Richard Myers, as described in this White House pool report (via Wonkette). The motorcade was:
was marginally shorter in the SUV category - five - than the one that traveled to the Energy Department today, with six SUVs. But it was longer in vans, four tonight, compared with three this morning. Two limos, of course.
We have one piece of advice for the White House. We know that the president likes to bicycle his way through crises, even when it appears the White House (and his wife) may be under attack.
Maybe that was the right idea, after all.
NOTE: Item updated from original to correct cost-per-hour of Air Force One.


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