Gas Pump Politics

The best thing government can do to lower gas prices is remove politically motivated barriers, and allow liberty to work.

On the Presidential campaign trail in the summer of 2008, the last time gas prices spiked over $4.00, then Senator Obama criticized President Bush who had called on Congress to repeal bans on domestic oil drilling.  Obama, who opposed any increase in domestic oil production announced that more drilling was unnecessary!

There are things you can do individually to save energy – simple things like making sure your tires are properly inflated.  Simple things but we could save all the oil they’re talking about gettin’ out of drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires, and getting regular tune ups, you’d actually save just as much.

In one of its few clever responses the McCain campaign began passing out Obama-Energy-Plan tire gauges.

Fast forward to 2011.  President Obama now says:

Whenever gas prices shoot up, like clockwork, you see politicians racing to the cameras, waving three-point plans for two dollar gas.  You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points.  The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away.

One of Obama’s favorite rhetorical devices is the straw man, or rebutting an argument nobody had made.  As anyone who is even casually familiar with the news from Washington knows, there are no politicians with “three-point plans for two dollar gas.”   As always, communication from this President is designed to influence the uninformed.

After sneering at imaginary political adversaries for imaginary three point plans Obama presented…a three point plan!

Point 1:

…safe and responsible production of oil at home, which we are pursuing.  In fact, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003.

This chart puts Obama’s claim in perspective:

It’s true there was a slight uptick in production in 2009 and 2010, after government restrictions caused a 45% decline over the previous 23 years.  But Obama can’t take credit for the increase.  As the anti-drilling voices often remind us, there is a long lead time from the the beginning of exploration to the actual production of oil.  The increases in 2009 and 2010 resulted from exploration and drilling permitted during the Bush Administration.

Obama is not “pursuing” more oil production at home.  Everything he has done in the past two years has had the effect of curtailing domestic drilling and production.  As the chart shows the same agency that reported the recent increases projects decreases for this year and next year due to the restrictions put in place by the Obama Administration.

Point 2

On Thursday, my Attorney General also launched a task force with just one job: rooting out cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, including any illegal activity by traders and speculators.

We’ve seen politicians race to the cameras” with this one so many times even the left-leaning media are yawning.  As always, and as Obama knows, it will turn out – after two or three years of “investigation” – that nobody broke the law.

Point 3

We need to invest in clean, renewable energy. In the long term, that’s the answer. That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil…That’s why I disagree so strongly with a proposal in Congress that cuts our investments in clean energy by 70 percent.

But Obama’s “we,” the government, has been “investing” or granting subsidies and tax credits to alternative energy companies for decades.  The real “we,” meaning The People, have no way to know if the schemes the bureaucracy picks to hurl our money at will ever turn out to be viable and cost effective, and neither do Senators or Congressmen and neither does Obama.

Politicians deliberately introduce ambiguity, confusion, and deception, when they use we-ours-us terms to describe government decisions that, in a society built on the principles of individual liberty, should be made in the private sector.

The misplaced use of we-ours-us leads, over time, to a sort of numbed acceptance of the notion that nothing can happen unless government authorities first do the thinking, then provide official blessings, and then release funds.

Obama Continued:

But we need to do more.  We need to harness the potential I’ve seen at promising start-ups and innovative clean energy companies across America.  And that’s at the heart of a debate we’re having right now in Washington about the budget.

There is no reason for the big WE – government – to decide which “promising start-ups”  should or should not be funded or to use the power of government to force a false choice against producing domestic oil and “investment” in alternatives.   Politicians and regulators have no track record that would demonstrate them qualified to pick winners and losers in advance, before all research and development has been completed.

If permitted to drill, the oil companies will invest their own, not “our” or government’s resources into growing their own business – and create tens of thousands of new American jobs along the way.

At the same time other companies are investing and will continue to invest their own resources in research and development of new forms of energy and fuel saving technologies.

The best thing for government to do is allow liberty to work. Let individuals and companies decide which ideas are most promising, and worthy of investment of their own resources, outside the political process.

1 Comment so far

  1. Kevin Cullis on April 25th, 2011

    Great article and facts about our production of energy. I’ve passed it on.