Home Energy and Environment A Line of Attack That’s Stupid No Matter Who Does It

A Line of Attack That’s Stupid No Matter Who Does It

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People who read this blog regularly know how much I hate false equivalences and brain-dead “both sides are equally bad” thinking. In the case of gasoline prices, though, I do think it’s fair to say that “both sides” stoop to mindless demagoguery and pandering whenever it suits their political interests to do so. Thus, if “gas” prices go up when a Republican is in the White House – or, even more absurdly, when a particular Republican is in the Senate (as if they set U.S. energy policy all by themselves) – Democrats (see the screen shot from Harris Miller’s 2006 U.S. Senate campaign; click to “embiggen”) bash them for it. And if “gas” prices go up when a Democrat is in the White House – or, even more absurdly, when a particular Democrat is named chairman of the DNC (as if the the DNC Chair has anything whatsoever to do with formulating or enacting U.S. energy policy!), Republicans like George Allen (see screen shot from his website, and again click to “embiggen”) likewise bash them for it.

So, guess what: it was stupid when Harris Miller in 2006 attacked George Allen for “gas” prices having risen “since George Allen took office in January 2001.” And it’s even stupider for George Allen today to attack Tim Kaine for the same thing. What on earth is the connection between the DNC chair and “gas” prices? Right, absolutely zero. For that matter, what is the connection between President Obama and “gas” prices in the short term? Very close to zero (same thing with President Bush and “gas” prices, by the way). The fact is, U.S. oil and natural gas production have risen substantially since President Obama took office, but oil prices are determined in a world market, of which the U.S. is only a part (and a relatively small one when it comes to production), and a recovering world economy plus geopolitical tensions in the Middle East (and other factors) have resulted in a rebound in oil prices to pre-2008-economic-collapse levels. Shocker! (not)

So, what would be a legitimate criticism on this issue? Simple: anyone who is actively working to prevent or slow the United States from breaking our “oil addiction” (as George W. Bush himself called it) as rapidly as possible – and yes, that’s mostly Republicans like George Allen, soaked in dirty energy money and extremely unlikely to do anything their patrons don’t want them to do – deserves to be bashed relentlessly for that. Again, not for short-term “gas” prices, but for their counterproductive and damaging long-term energy policy, which needs to be tossed into the dustbin of history as expeditiously as is humanly possible.

The reality is that reducing our oil consumption is by far and away the main thing the U.S. can do to reduce our vulnerability to world oil price fluctuations, and also to the adverse national security implications that come with heavy reliance on “the devil’s excrement,” as it’s been called. To a large extent, this will come about through sharply increased vehicle efficiency, which the Obama administration is wisely pushing big time (no thanks to Republicans like George Allen!).

Second, in the medium-term we can transition our entire economy off of oil by investing heavily in clean energy (instead of wasting billions more subsidizing a mature, 19th-and-early-20th-century industry). Again, the Obama administration has been doing this big time, and again, no thanks whatsoever to Republicans like George Allen. In stark contrast, Republicans are still stuck on Sarah Palin’s brain-dead, Johnny-one-note “drill baby drill” chant, which everybody who understands energy markets knows won’t do jack-you-know-what. Brilliant.

But back to the main point of this diary: it’s idiotic to attack one specific U.S. Senator – and beyond idiotic to attack the head of the DNC (or RNC for that matter) – for having anything to do with higher “gas” prices over a particular period of time. Again, world oil prices (and along with them, oil product prices) fluctuate for a wide variety of reasons – world economic growth, OPEC spare production capacity, international political developments, unanticipated supply disruptions, etc, etc. –  almost none of which have anything to do with specific U.S. energy policies, at least in the short term. Not that many politicians understand this or care even if they do; they’re more concerned with scoring political points, even cheap ones, and saying or doing whatever it takes to get elected. Just keep that in mind next time you see an ad on high “gas” prices by George Allen, Karl Rove, or whoever else is running them.

P.S. Note that “gas” prices have been falling for weeks now; does that mean President Obama should get credit from Republicans, just as he was absurdly blamed when “gas” prices were rising? Again, this entire line of attack is utter idiocy and must assume that voters are imbeciles to fall for it.