Over the years prices increased again, until something similar happened four years ago. The rise of China and years of economic growth drove the price of oil higher and higher. Crude topped $147 per barrel in July of 2008. Then, in the face of worldwide recession, it plunged. By Christmas it was as low as $32 per barrel.
So while prices are indeed high right now, it seems likely that, by the time Obama’s extra bureaucrats could even be hired, gas prices will have cycled down again.
In fact, it’s federal intervention that tends to foul up markets. In his book “The Quest,” energy expert Daniel Yergin explains that price controls, implemented under Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, didn’t help consumers.
“They did succeed in creating a whole new federal bureaucracy, an explosion in regulatory and litigation work for lawyers, and much political contention,” he writes. “But the controls did little for their stated goals of limiting inflation – and did nothing for energy security.” Not surprisingly, oil prices tumbled after President Reagan lifted price controls, which he did with his first executive order.
President Obama is certainly correct that drilling more today wouldn’t instantly decrease oil prices. It takes years, after all, to bring a new well online and begin generating oil from it. As former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister puts it, oil companies think in “energy time,” while our national leaders think in “political time.”
By blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and by limiting offshore oil exploration, for example, the Obama administration has shown it’s more interested in rewarding its radical environmentalist supporters than in adding to future oil supplies.
The entire country will pay more for fuel because of those decisions in the years ahead: that’s “energy time.” Meanwhile, attacking non-existent price gougers happens in “political time.” Will voters allow the president to get away with such transparent pandering? Only time will tell.
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