Jobs are being created. Consumer confidence remains high. Housing starts are up for the first time in years. The global financial markets are, for the time being, stabilized. All of these are good signs if you are the campaign staff for Barack Obama. Sitting presidents tend to do better when the economy is going well, and while that’s hardly the only thing that matters, it was a factor that was supposed to count against Obama this year, but is instead picking up just in time to give him political credibility as he launches into a potential second term.
But all the buzz these days from the right wing blogosphere is how much pain Americans are feeling at the pump, and how gas prices are rising rapidly “under Obama’s watch.” (I won’t give any of them enough credit to link to them from this article, but suffice it to say they’re talking about it because they’d rather be talking about gas prices than their own candidates, who, at the moment, are looking like a who’s who of successors for Bozo the Clown’s job).
According to the AAA Fuel Gauge, gas prices have jumped 18% since December. It’s having an effect, as consumer sentiment, a measure of how much consumers believe the economy is going well, dropped for the first time since August.
So what’s causing this upswing in gas prices? Is it the crisis in Iran? Probably at least partially. There always seems to be a crisis of some sort, and when Libya’s crisis was happening, crude oil prices spiked to about $91 a barrel. Today they’re holding steady over $100 a barrel.
The assaults from the right hold water about as much as a cheese cloth. Saying that Obama’s policies are causing high gas prices is shortsighted, naive, and intentionally misleading. The President’s influence on gasoline prices is incredibly limited given China’s rising demand, Iran’s crisis, and big oil’s monopoly on the market. Sure, there are a number of things he could do to drive the price down…temporarily. This includes opening the spigot from the strategic reserve and passing a gas tax holiday.
Long term, nothing will bring the price of a commodity down that has increasing demand and shrinking supply.
But in the meantime, Obama is fighting back. He’s once again calling for an end to the $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies for big oil that Republicans insist are necessary. Whether they can pass this through the Republican-led House of Representatives is unlikely, but at least when November rolls around, the whole “He made gas prices go up” argument will seem pretty shameful when there is this: “They’re giving your tax dollars to big oil, whose profits are among the highest of any companies in the world, and who are dodging paying U.S. taxes by setting up tax havens in the Marshall Islands.”
Of course, in our soundbyte culture, it’s much easier to whine a one-liner about gas prices than expect people to understand the nature of big oil’s greed.
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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