Gasoline prices have climbed above $4 per gallon for regular at too many places across the nation. We know this because President Barack Obama has embarked on a four-day blitz to demonstrate his concern for high gasoline prices.
According to the U.S Energy Information Administration the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the country is $3.87 which is up about 30 cents from a year ago.
The highest prices are on the West Coast at $4.23. The lowest, next door in the Rocky Mountain region at $3.62.
Unemployment numbers are largely theoretical. At 8.3 percent (or 14.9 percent if you'd rather use the underemployed rate) we care more about whether it's going up or down. Either everyone in our family who wants job has one, or they don't.
Gasoline prices are different. Everyone with a car or truck has to fill his her or his tank on a regular basis. They know pretty much to the nearest dollar how much it should cost. When it costs more dollars, they notice. It is not theoretical, it is actual cash off the debit card.
Rising gasoline prices are a regressive tax on poorer Americans. They affect most those who can afford higher prices least.
My car has a 20 gallon tank. I generally fill it when I have about a quarter of a tank left. That means I need about 15 gallons about every two weeks. 30 gallons a month.
At $3.50 per gallon it will cost $105 per month for me to drive a normal pattern not counting trips to visit family and friends out of town.
At $4.00 per gallon I will spend $120 per month - 15 dollars more.
For me that is one fewer tall no-whip Starbucks mochas per week. Four morning mochas instead of five per week and I'm just about even.
But, for people on a fixed income or working at a close-to-minimum-wage job who are stretching the check to reach the end of the month is a struggle in the best of times. That $15 dollars is a big FIFTEEN dollars. It might well mean, not one fewer Starbucks a week, but one fewer meal for the family per week.
If I were advising the Republican National Committee - which I am not - I would be looking for a struggling family in every state, maybe in every Congressional district to tell the story of what $4 gasoline means to them. How they have to buy gas to get to work. They are trapped by higher prices.
I guarantee you if there were a Republican President the DNC would be doing just that.
This Administration has made some very bad bets that have made lowering prices more difficult.
Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu is a PhD and Nobel Prize winner in physics. He has been focused like a laser on ridding the nation, and the world, from the yoke of fossil fuels for cars and trucks by moving America's fleet to battery-powered vehicles.
There are 250 million cars and light trucks on America's highways. Even if we could get a million Americans to purchase a battery-powered car, that would amount to 1/250th of the fleet or four tenths of one percent.
Not exactly a game changer.
Not only that, but you have to have additional electricity production to have something in the socket when those million battery-operated cars are plugged in. In order to do that, without increasing the use of natural gas or coal, the Administration promoted more nuclear powered generation plants.
Nothing wrong with that on its face, but the Tsunami in Japan last year made it far more difficult to move out smartly on that front - at least for now.
Solar power and wind farms are pleasant thoughts as alternative sources, but (a) you have to build them somewhere where people aren't; (b) you have get the electricity from where they are to where it is needed; and, (c) the wind doesn't always blow, nor does the sun always shine.
So, battery-powered cars may have been a bad bet. After planning to sell 10,000 Chevy Volts in 2011, General Motors admitted it sold only about 6,200. As 2012 opened, Chevrolet had to bite bullet and shut down the Volt assembly line for at least five weeks until inventories are sold off.
I'm not cheering for the demise of battery-operate cars, but they are not a solution to $4 gasoline any time in the foreseeable future.
President Obama is correct when he says there is "no silver bullet" to quickly bring down gasoline prices. Fair or not, the guy behind that big desk in the Oval Office gets the blame.
This time, it's Barack Obama.
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