Steve Chapman

But if John McCain preached that mantra, Obama has practiced it. Since he arrived, the number of drilling rigs in operation has more than tripled. Domestic production, which fell by 11 percent under George W. Bush, has grown by 10 percent.

Yet prices have risen, because -- surprise of surprises -- the United States is only part of the global market. All sorts of events around the world, good and bad, affect oil supply and demand.

As we learned a few years ago, there is nothing like a brutal recession to make gasoline a bargain. As the American economy has recovered, our demand has picked up. Worldwide demand for oil has also risen steadily in recent months. Both help to account for the price jump.

The main explanation, though, is the prospect of a military confrontation that would cut off shipments from the world's fourth largest oil producer. Republicans blame Obama for not attacking Iran at the same time they attack him for high gas prices. But nothing would do more to raise prices than an attack on Iran.

Obama himself was in Florida Thursday delivering the message that, as a New York Times story recounted, "neither he nor anyone else can do much about oil prices." So true. But where did anyone get the idea that the president could affect oil prices?

Possibly from this president. Last summer, he released 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- to make sure the upheaval in Libya didn't inconvenience American motorists filling up over the Fourth of July weekend.

Republican and Democratic officeholders in Washington disagree on many things. But on the proposition that they should decide the price of gasoline, unity prevails.

Steve Chapman blogs daily at To find out more about Steve Chapman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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