And in a brilliant, highly educational follow-up comment, Bush informed the audience: "One reason why the price is so high is because the price of crude oil has been driven up."
"OPEC has gotten its supply act together," Bush advised listeners, "and it's driving the price, like it did in the past."
"And," he said in direct advice to Clinton, "the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the prices."
Apparently, Bush has lost the phone numbers for OPEC members, or they are refusing to take his calls, because I think its safe to assume that he did not "jawbone" members of the OPEC cartel.
That said, if Bush is not in the mood for "jawboning," he could at least use a little pillow talk with his buddies in Saudi Arabia and get them to open the spigots.
During campaign 2000, Bush told Americans that he had an energy plan that would reduce gas prices at the pumps and here we sit 5 years later, with the highest prices in history.
The high energy costs are affecting everyone, from commuters and consumers, to public and private programs. The damage is devastating everywhere.
Since Bush took office, gas prices have increased 62.5% from $1.44 per gallon in January 2001 to $2.34 in March 2006. The average household with children will spend about $3,343 on transportation fuel costs this year, an increase of 75% since 2001, according to the Energy Information Administration, Retail Gasoline Prices, and Household Vehicle Energy Use: Latest Data and Trends, November 2005.
And gas prices are still rising. As of April 24, 2006, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge report said, nationally, the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.90, or a 15.5% hike over the $2.51 price per gallon a month ago.
So where is all the money going? One need not look far. In 2005, the world's largest oil company, Exxonmoblile, reported the most profitable year in US corporate history, earning more than $36 billion.
Economists say oil producers and refiners, not gas stations, are making a killing. The five largest refineries, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Valero, and British Petroleum (BP) have recorded $228 billion in profits since 2001, according to testimony at a congressional hearing last November.
In 1999, refiners made 23 cents for each gallon processed and in 2004, they made 41 cents a gallon, according to Department of Energy data.
While watching oil company profits skyrocket, the average American household spent about $107 more for heating this past winter compared to the year before. In 2005-06, households heating with natural gas paid $402, or 86% more than they paid in 2001-2002. Consumers of heating oil paid $759, or 121% more this winter than they paid in 2001-2002, according to the Energy Information Administration, Short Term Energy Outlook, April 2006.
Family budgets, already strained by the rising cost of health care and health insurance, including higher co-payments and deductibles, as well as prescription drugs, college tuition, and other everyday expenses, are being stretched to the limit.
Energy costs are largely responsible for the declining real wages of working people. With the ever-rising cost of gasoline, employees are seeing their paychecks dwindle by the simple fact that they have to drive back and forth to work.