Obama Punts On Oil

When I gassed up today, the price was $4 per gallon. We’re reaching price levels that, when the evil Bush was in office, were proof of some Cheney-led conspiracy.

It’s quite obvious what’s going on. The recessions is easing, which is driving up energy use. There is instability in the Middle East — well, there’s always instability in the MIddle East, but it’s been unstable even by their standards. You can read Ron Bailey here on the economics of this. Short story: things aren’t as bad as they were in 2008. And we’re actually in a better position to weather it because Americans have shortened their commutes and bought more efficient cars.

There are a few things we could do, long term. Lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling or allowing more work on tar sands would be good. But ultimately, that will just bring the price down a little because all oil adds to the world market. Domestic oil production — which is at a high point right now — doesn’t benefit American consumers directly.

Bottom line: we need to suck up and deal.

Of course, you know where the White House went. After years of telling us that gas should be more expensive to improve conservation, they went for the Full Pander:

In his weekly address, President Obama laid out his plans to address rising gas prices over the short and the long term. While there is no silver bullet to bring down prices right away, there are a few things we can do. This week, the Attorney General launched a task force dedicated to rooting out fraud or manipulations in the oil markets. The President called for finally ending the $4 billion in taxpayer money that the oil and gas companies receive annually. And, we need to continue safe, responsible production of oil at home. But in the long term, we need to invest in clean, renewable energy. That is why the President strongly disagrees with a proposal in Congress that cuts our investments in clean energy by 70 percent.

As Ronald Bailey said, this is the equivalent of saying, “Round up the usual suspects”. Every time gas prices go up, Congress looks into speculation and manipulation. And they always come up empty after wasting a lot of time and money. I don’t think the oil companies should get billions in subsidies. But removing those will not lower the price of gas. And the oil industry, per kwH, does not enjoy nearly the subsidies that solar and wind power do. In essence, Obama has chosen to do nothing. That’s close to what he should do, but the preening and pandering is unnecessary.

And that’s my point. We’re always told that Obama is treating us like adults; that he’s the only adult in the room. Well, I’m sorry. Adult do not tell us fairy tales about evil speculators and rapacious oil companies. Adults say things like: “It’s a limited resource. The economy is growing. The Middle East is crazy. What the fuck do you want? Oil costs what it costs. We could cap the price. And you’ll be standing in line at gas stations again. Drive less.”

But Obama would never say that. His own base would revolt at being told that there is no perpetual right to cheap gasoline.

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