A newspaper reporter called me recently to discuss the reasons behind rising gas prices. After I explained the various factors that are increasing your pain at the pump, the reporter asked me if high gas prices going into the November election would affect President Obama’s re-election chances. My first impulse was to say, “Let’s hope so.” But after many years of being quoted and misquoted in the press, I have learned to choose my words carefully. Therefore, I responded that high gas prices just before the election represent a “worst-case scenario for President Obama.”
My quote was a statement of so obvious a political reality that I expected no pushback from it. After all, rightly or wrongly, Americans do tend to blame the president—regardless of his political party—for their economic woes. Blaming the president is just what Americans do. In fact, I sometimes think that one of the main reasons we elect presidents is so we will have someone to blame when things go wrong (the buck stops here). Consequently, I was surprised a few days later to open my local newspaper and read in the masthead editorial that I am a heel for blaming rising gas prices on President Obama. The editor even implied that I am one of those conspiracy theorists who blame President Obama for everything from warts to tooth decay.
Readers of Patriot Update know that I am no supporter of Barack Obama’s economic and energy policies, but conspiracy theorist? The only conspiracy I am part of is that “great right wing conspiracy” alluded to by then First Lady Hillary Clinton. The editor who took issue with my quote attempted to make the point that President Obama should not be blamed for high gas prices. His contention was that presidents have little, in any, influence on the price of gas. In reality, my quote this editor took issue with did not say that Barack Obama is responsible for rising gas prices, just that his re-election is not helped by them. But had the editor asked me, I would have told him that not only do a lot of Americans blame President Obama for high gas prices—I among them—they have every reason to.
There has not been a president since Jimmy Carter who can so fairly and accurately be blamed—at least in part—for the ever-increasing price of gas than Barack Obama. Why? The answer is simple: Because oil is a speculative commodity. The cost of a barrel of oil is directly affected by speculation over future supply and demand. This means that speculation over future supply and demand affects the cost of oil and, in turn, gasoline. Any action by the president that could be viewed as limiting future supplies of oil will tend to increase the price of oil. This is economics 101.
Has President Obama taken any action that might limit the future supply of oil? Silly question. One could fill a book with all he has done along these lines. Not only has he failed to support the Keystone Pipeline project, he has actively opposed it. His opposition to Keystone, as well as to drilling in Alaska, is viewed by oil speculators as a direct threat to the future supply of oil at a time when worldwide demand is steadily increasing. He has cut by almost 60 percent the number of drilling leases issued. Further, he has encouraged the EPA to promulgate burdensome regulations that are transforming coal from a low-cost energy source into an expensive luxury item.
By siding with opponents of fracking the president is limiting access to plentiful supplies of natural gas and, in turn, increasing the cost of this traditionally low-cost energy course. Finally, rather than invest research dollars in more viable projects, the President has wasted billions of dollars trying to turn wind and solar into economically viable energy sources, something they are not and will not be—if ever—until substantial advances in technology have been made. So if you want to blame President Obama for the rising price of gas, go ahead—he deserves it.