The GOP’s gasoline alley

LesWaggoner BN 1 2012/03/11 02:41:23


By Dana Milbank, Published: March 7

The Republicans are synthesizing a higher-octane blend in their bid to fuel Americans’ anxiety about rising gas prices.

The Republican National Committee sent out talking points instructing party faithful to take up the issue. House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) urged his caucus to do the same. And, on Wednesday, the House energy committee obliged: The Republican majority called in a bunch of oilmen for a hearing dedicated largely to blaming President Obama for high gas prices.

“The president got his wish,” announced Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). “He asked for $4 gasoline, he said he wanted it, he implemented policies to get us there, and now that the price is there and people across the country are furious with the prices, the president is trying to blame somebody else.”

Dana Milbank will live chat with readers Friday at Noon ET. Submit questions and opinions for Dana to respond to now.

But why blame Obama for $4 gas if you can tar him with $10 gas? Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) asked a Big Oil man on the panel, Charles Drevna of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, what the price of a gallon would be if all domestic production ceased. “Ten dollars, like they pay in Europe?”

“That’s difficult to answer,” Drevna replied.

The lawmaker wasn’t satisfied. “This administration would like to wean us off our fossil fuels,” he announced, repeating the question.

“The cost? I can’t,” Big Oil demurred.

“Would we be paying $10 a gallon?” the congressman demanded.

“If not more,” the oilman finally answered.

In fact, domestic oil output has sharply increased under Obama to the highest level in nearly a decade and is expected to continue expanding. Even if that stopped, it’s not obvious that European price levels (which are inflated by taxes) would be an automatic result.

But reason has nothing to do with it. As the stock market advances and the labor market improves, Republicans are losing their best campaign themes. That makes the recent spike in gas prices — in part a byproduct of higher economic growth — a potentially crucial issue for the opposition. The facts aren’t on their side (policymakers have little sway over oil prices; and one policy area that is spurring prices, the prospect of attacking Iran, has been pushed by Republican presidential candidates), but political reality is: The incumbent will be credited or blamed for whatever happens on his watch.

At his Super Tuesday rally after winning the Georgia primary this week, Newt Gingrich, a White House contender, devoted much of his speech to attacking Obama for the higher prices, even misquoting a line from the president’s news conference earlier Tuesday to make it sound as though Obama cares about gas prices only because he is up for reelection. Gingrich repeated his implausible pledge that he would get gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon.

Other Republicans, meanwhile, continue to allege that Obama has been attempting to drive up gas prices. “It’s my view that the administration’s policies are actually designed to bring about higher gas prices,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said in a floor speech Wednesday morning.

On the other side of the Capitol complex, another Kentuckian, Rep. Ed Whitfield, kicked off the hearing on gas prices with a similar theme: “When President Obama took office, the average gasoline price was around $1.85 a gallon, and today it’s over $3.60 per gallon. I do not intend today to place all of the blame on the president, but I’m gonna give him some of it.” Actually, Whitfield gave Obama so much blame that he got lost in his notes. “I’m having some difficulty reading my own writing,” he acknowledged.

Republicans weren’t quite so out of sorts when gas prices exceeded $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008, during George W. Bush’s tenure. Democrats tried to remind them Wednesday of their selective outrage. “Let’s quit BS-ing the American people that there’s some policy that any president, Democrat or Republican, or any Congress can do to affect the price of a world commodity,” suggested Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.).

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) preferred to label the Republican argument “poppycock.”

But Republicans correctly judged that they had a political winner. “It just looks to me,” declared Rep. Morgan Griffith (Va.), “like this administration has an all-of-the-above policy to raise the cost of energy.”

Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.) said that for every penny increase in gas, “that’s $1.4 million a day” in higher costs.

“Billion,” corrected Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.).

“Billion? Is it billion or million?” Barton inquired.

“Billion,” Upton assured him.

Million, billion, whatever. In this fight, the facts don’t matter.

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  • JanHopkins 2012/03/11 05:16:01
    Frankly, I don't know who to believe anymore, but I refuse to buy more gasoline than I will need for a weeks worth of driving at a time. That comes to about four gallons.
  • LesWagg... JanHopkins 2012/03/12 01:14:20
    LesWaggoner BN 1
    What you pay at the pump is only part of what you pay. Subsidies to the petroleum industry come out of our taxes.
    I live in Costa Rica where the average wage is about $4 an hour and the cost of regular gasoline is $5.35 a gallon. At least we know the true cost of fuel here.
  • JanHopkins LesWagg... 2012/03/12 05:57:19
    Hi Les. I'm going to assume that most people live very close to work in Costa Rica. Here some people have to travel an hour to work and an hour back home especially with jobs so scarce. My brother told me he was thinking of trying to find a second job to make enough money to get to his regular job.
    What really annoys me is that the government doesn't even count the price of gas when they figure out the level of inflation. They must think we are all blind and stupid.
  • LesWagg... JanHopkins 2012/03/14 01:39:59
    LesWaggoner BN 1
    The fact of the matter is that no president has any ability to control the cost of energy. There are many factors that affect the price of petroleum OPEC sets a price, Iran makes threats, commodities investors speculate, China and India are growing consumers.

    Gingrich is nearly screaming that he can bring the cost of gasoline down to between $2 and $2.50 but there is only one way he can affect the price at the pump. The federal government can subsidize gasoline so that the pump shows that price range but the additional cost of gasoline will be paid with your taxes.

    Even though the U.S. is continuing to produce more petroleum it is still subject to the world market. If domestic gasoline production cannot be sold at market prices in the U.S. it will be exported. It's a matter of maintaining profits and nothing more.

    On average travel to work in this small country is no shorter than it averages in the States. We do have an amazing bus system which the majority of workers use. Many work in San Jose, a distance of about 17 miles. Driving costs about $10 but the bus costs under $2.
  • JanHopkins LesWagg... 2012/03/14 03:15:56
    No bus route here. The problem is that when the price of gas goes up the price of everything else goes up whether they actually use petroleum in that service or not. Unfortunately our paychecks are not going up along with it. As for Newt, he knows he can claim anything at this point because he isn't going to get the job anyway.
  • LesWagg... JanHopkins 2012/03/14 14:59:57
    LesWaggoner BN 1
    Here is a good read fror you on the subject.

    Energy prices are hurting everyone world-wide.

    The only out is moving to alternative energy but the hold-up has been in the slow development of battery technology and the U.S. has been at a disadvantage here.
    The best and brightest minds from India and China are being educated in the U.S. but the difficulty and length of time to get visas and work permits in the U.S. since 9/11 is forcing them to opt for going back to their home countries rather than fight the red tape. These graduates in science and technology need employment as soon as possible in order to repay the cost of their education and most can't wait for the two years required. We're being beaten economically by both countries because of our own rules and regulations.

    The ideas for energy production are not confined to solar, wind and nuclear. There are viable ideas for producing fuel from switch grass, algae, the movement of ocean tides and many more but the technology has to be developed.
  • JanHopkins LesWagg... 2012/03/15 02:34:09
    I've been hearing some murmurs about a hydrogen car. Know anything about it?
  • LesWagg... JanHopkins 2012/03/16 01:15:25
    LesWaggoner BN 1
    Oh yeah.
    Using your favorite search engine enter "hydrogen cars pros and cons" and you will find a wealth of information.
    Hydrogen is produced by splitting water into H and O2. It's an expensive operation to set up but using solar it is minimal cost once done.

    Here is an article that will interest you: Inside the Solar-Hydrogen House: No More Power Bills--Ever
  • JanHopkins LesWagg... 2012/03/16 02:57:43
    Wow! I wonder what makes it so expensive? It makes so much more sense than one of those huge batteries on electric cars. I love the idea that the byproduct is water.
  • LesWagg... JanHopkins 2012/03/18 19:00:28
    LesWaggoner BN 1
    I've been doing research on the internet since 1991 so my keyword skills are pretty good and I use as many as four tabs to track down a particular thread.

    If you have good keyword skills follow the information that you find. Realize theat the hydrogen generator was an experiment in action and cost more just in research and construction. The article itself is 3 1/2 years old an many developements have been made that lower the price of construction.

    Using the search term "hydrogen production" will get you started.
    Here is another article to read: Chance Discovery May Revolutionize Hydrogen Production

    If you have technical skills it will help.
  • JanHopkins LesWagg... 2012/03/18 19:07:22
    I just added that to my list of favorites. I'll get back with you later on it. Time to work.

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