When the summer driving season starts soon, and tension heats up over Iran, gas may reach $5 a gallon. Nothing bothers voters more than paying an extra $20 or $30 every time they fill up. In times like these, they soon might prefer even an oilman in the White House to an ideologue whose opposition to new oil development seems more religious than empirically based.
All presidents, of course, usually get the blame or praise when the price of gas skyrockets or plummets, just like they own a bad or good economy, or a successful or failed war.
Obama, however, earns additional blame for the gas rise for reasons well beyond the normal oil bogeymen -- tension in the Middle East, rapacious OPEC dictators, oil company greed and Wall Street speculation.
Why? Americans remember that his team boasted about wanting higher energy costs in 2008, when Obama was still basking in hope-and-change adulation. Energy Secretary designate Steven Chu, who doesn't own a car, pontificated about wanting higher American gasoline prices, hoping they would somehow reach European levels.
Candidate Obama breezily warned of skyrocketing energy prices -- the necessary cost of his planned cap-and-trade, anti-global-warming legislation.
Sen. Ken Salazar, who was soon to become Interior secretary, bragged that even if gas reached $10 a gallon, he would not vote to open up new federal offshore oil leases.
Once upon a time, Obama and his supporters believed that high gas and oil prices were either helpful in ensuring that favored subsidized green energies would be cost competitive, or helped the environment. That's why a now-embarrassed Obama digs in by mocking opponents who call for increased drilling.
A president, so Obama claims, has little control over gas prices. New domestic supplies of oil would not come on the market for years. Americans consume a quarter of the world's oil supplies while possessing only 2 percent of global reserves. In a global oil market, additional American drilling would not make that much of a price difference.
All of these claims are either flat wrong or misleading.
Presidents can affect gas prices, at least in the long term, by exercising budgetary discipline resulting in a currency that buys more oil per dollar, by approving or rejecting federal oil leases, and by adding or curbing regulations that affect oil exploration and development. In all of these cases, Obama has supported policies that contribute to higher gas prices.
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