Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Have you noticed that ever since the Democrats took control of Congress, oil and gas prices have been going through the roof?

The Dems won control of the House and Senate last year in part on the notion that sinking billions of taxpayer dollars into corn-based ethanol would combat global warming; itself a dubious superstition that some scientists say is part of the Earth's natural environmental changes over many eons.

Among the predictable results: increased gas prices because of higher refinery costs to blend ethanol into petroleum-based fuel, and higher grain and food prices because the government-induced demand for corn drove up agricultural prices on the commodities market. This is known as the law of unintended consequences, and it seems to be popping up with just about everything the Democratic-run Congress has been passing lately.

The Democrats also ran against the oil companies, charging them with collusion to drive up the price of oil and gas, attacking their rising profits and high salaries, and proposing that the answer to all this was to smack Exxon-Mobil and their partners in crime with an "excess profits" tax so that Congress can spend that money on other things -- like ethanol subsidies.

Every so often, to demonstrate their concern about higher gas prices, Congress calls oil executives up to Capitol Hill to explain why the numbers keep rising. Lawmakers angrily wag their fingers at the cornered businessmen, threatening to uncover their alleged skullduggery. The executives in turn patiently explain how oil prices rise and fall in global trading and are largely driven by the laws of supply and demand. The hearings end and not much comes of it except some newspaper headlines.

An abysmal level of ignorance about all this pervades Congress, a cloud of cluelessness breathtaking to behold. Apparently these lawmakers skipped Economics 101 or were never taught about the principles of supply and demand. Here's what Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin told senior oil company executives at a recent Judiciary Committee hearing: "People don't get it. Demand is not crazy. Why are prices going crazy?"

I guess Kohl must have missed all the stories about skyrocketing global demand for oil. One executive explained that world demand was certainly crazy, driven by fast-growth economies like China and India. Oil and gas inventories have barely kept pace with that demand, but the gap between supply and demand has grown tighter, and that drives up prices in global commodities markets.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.