As Americans continue to feel the effects of President Obama’s anti-oil agenda at the pump, defensive liberals are circling back to a familiar line of counter-attack: blame Bush. The media vacuum on gas prices has made this line of attack all the more promising with very little national coverage being given to the president’s destructive domestic drilling agenda. Unfortunately it misses an obvious point.
President George W. Bush was mostly attacked for wanting to drill too much (or being “cozy” with the oil industry), while President Obama’s policies are rooted in unilaterally shutting down the domestic oil industry amidst rising prices and a struggling economy.
Yes, the price of gasoline reached historic levels, rising above $4/gallon during Bush’s second term, but that wasn’t due to a lack of trying to increase domestic supply. U.S. domestic supply is but one factor in the global price of oil, and thus gas prices. But when a president purposefully chooses to decrease our domestic supply by 13%, with hopes of driving that supply even lower, and objects to U.S.-Canadian pipelines and new forms of exploration, discovery and friendly importation, the price consequences are real, and should be scrutinized.
During the first twenty-six months of President Bush’s first term in office, the price of gasoline increased by 7%. At the end of his second term, the price had decreased by 9% from the time he took office (adjusted for inflation). During the first twenty-six months of Obama’s term in office, the price of gasoline has spiked over 67% with no relief in site.
Clearly, other mitigating factors were at work between those two time periods. U.S. demand is one such factor, as is global supply disruptions, cartel pricing and the cost to refine and distribute, but the current price spikes obligate serious people to scrutinize our nation’s energy policy.
President Bush’s response to $4/gallon gasoline was to lift presidential and congressional moratoriums on expanded drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, a move that many critics say came too late. But what about Obama?
Some on the right have criticized Obama for having no energy policy. This is wrong. Obama’s energy policy is working exactly the way it is designed. This administration knows that unless the price of fossil fuels skyrocket, expensive alternative energy sources, no matter how heavily subsidized, will continue to be unattractive to American consumers.
Obviously, this risky desire to have high gas prices is a punitive policy that foolishly ignores how Americans use petroleum. While oil is largely a transportation fuel, solar and wind can only contribute to our electricity demands. Oil accounts for less than 1% of our electricity demand.
The liberal fascination with developing expensive vehicles that run on electricity doesn’t change that: 1) Solar or wind powered vehicles don’t commercially exist; 2) The cars that do run on electricity, or even battery-powered hybrids still require gas; and 3) the high cost of the alternatively fueled vehicles makes them largely insignificant in the auto market and cost-prohibitive to the average consumer.
Sure, it would be ideal to have a national fleet of cars that are inexpensive and run on cheap and widely available alternative sources of energy. But the markets have demonstrated this reality is nowhere close to fruition. And when you try to hasten that reality by artificially jacking up the price of gas, the economic effects are felt largely by the poorest among us and disincentives business owners from hiring as their fixed operating costs increase.
Think about it, who feels the pain of an extra $1 at the gas pump? The rich guys that the left demonizes or the middle-to-low income wage earners who balance their budgets by the penny, not the dollar? If the only cars available on the market were $40,000 Chevy Volts, would a Lexus or BMW consumer be hit hard, or would the family looking for a barely affordable mode of shuttling their family be affected? Consumer Reports said Obama’s heralded Volt “is an expensive way to be green.”
This economic, energy and transportation reality—the here and now—is why President Bush called for more domestic oil exploration at the same time he called for an end to our “addiction” to oil. You cannot shut down one job-creating industry while you hope another emerges. Hope is not a smart energy strategy.
This week, the Obama administration began floating the idea that depleting the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is a viable response to rising oil prices. The SPR is where America stores roughly 700 billion barrels of oil in case of a catastrophe. Its drawdown would have a marginally positive affect on gas prices for a very short time period. Once that supply is partially or completely eliminated, we would be back to square one. In other words, the action would be purely political and designed to politically disguise a terrible energy policy.
President Obama must stop killing energy jobs, hurting American business owners and penalizing taxpayers at the pump in order to score unrelated points with his environmental base. Obama needs to end the EPA practice of imposing regulations on refineries that increase the cost of oil production. He must stop looking to raise taxes on oil producers while heavily subsidizing other energy industries.
And Obama must at least end his de facto moratorium and get America back to the domestic supply capabilities we had just two years ago. As Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a hearing on oil prices this week: “In January 2009 there were 16 permits issued. The next year there were 12 and this January, only two. We’re so far off the historic level. We’ve got to get it back up as quickly as possible.”
This time, in this economy, with these transportation and energy realities is not the time for Obama to curry favor with eco-liberals by raising the cost of living for the average American family. President Bush may have wanted to increase the drilling status quo by too much in your opinion, but surely we can all agree that intentionally decreasing our domestic supply makes little sense today.