Filled up the car lately? Then you've probably noticed what's happening with the price of gasoline - or diesel, if you favor that flavor of fuel. And since it's an election season, if the trend toward higher prices continues, we're going to be searching for villains, come November. Are we right? And if so, where should we begin?
Let's dismiss the accusation that the president alone is responsible. It wasn't true when then-Sen. Obama made the accusation against then-President George Bush, and it's not true now.
Let's also dismiss the canard that evil oil companies are driving up the price in search of "unfair" profits. Although profit-per-barrel calculations are notoriously difficult, a reasonable figure might be between 10 and 20 cents per gallon of refined product. The federal government's cut, by comparison, is 18.4 cents.
Rising demand figures in, as do tricks being played with the value of the dollar. Supply also has a prominent role, and it is here that the current administration does have a hand in the pain at the pump.
Policies do matter when it comes to petroleum and its derivatives. Drilling, production, transport, refining, distribution and use - all are regulated and taxed by the federal government, so it might be useful to examine the attitudes of those in charge.
In early 2008, Sen. Obama flagged high gas prices as a plague on working America and as evidence of the incompetence - or worse - of the Bush Administration. His remedy? Spend $150 billion of borrowed money on "green energy." Hence, Solyndra, an elaborate money-laundering scheme for the Democrat party. Shortly afterward, he said that as part of the strategy to address higher oil prices we must "... replace the internal combustible engine ... because we want to get rid of fossil fuels." Hence, the Chevy Volt, a $40,000 hybrid no one wants. You bailed out the company that makes it.
In a September, 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal, candidate Obama also noted that he "... would have preferred a gradual adjustment..." in gas prices, but insisted that in the end, they were good for America.
These statements indicate not only a powerful ideological drive to inflict a radical environmental agenda on this country, they show a real indifference to - or ignorance of - the economic effects such policies will have, and the pain they will create for the average American in terms of the cost of living.
This ideological bent is shared by the president's energy secretary Dr. Steven Chu, who in 2008 told the Wall Street Journal that "Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." We've only come about halfway, but the Secretary stuck to his guns in a Congressional hearing Feb. 28. When asked if the administration had plans to address rising gas prices, he was surprisingly forthright: "No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil ..." which he still maintained would "... help the American economy and the American consumers." Except, of course, for American consumers who still have to fill the car to get to work. But they don't count. And they should be riding buses and trains anyway. See a pattern here?
True, when damage control sirens went off in the White House, both the president and the secretary tried to put the cat back in the bag. This is another pattern.
The administration regularly lays smoke to hide its agenda. It's busily issuing drilling permits for the Gulf of Mexico, but most are for shallow wells that traditionally produce gas. Of the 14 or so deepwater drilling permits issued last year, 13 are still "pending review." One was approved for a field under development since 1985. Meanwhile, the EPA continues to hone regulations which - if they survive - will cripple the boom in domestic natural gas production and shutter coal-fired electric power plants - ironically, necessary if plug-in cars are to become more than a novelty.
Not to mention the Keystone XL pipeline. If "energy security" is really the goal, as the administration has stated many times, why stand in the way of a system which will allow us - together with Canadian and Mexican partners - to produce over 90 percent of our energy requirements within North America by 2025? Are windmills, solar panels and Chevy Volts going to better that deadline? Hardly, no matter how much borrowed money is thrown at them in search of the ecotopia many in this administration are pushing with both hands. Hydrogen might eventually work for transportation, but ... the administration defunded vehicle fuel cell research in 2009; it's batteries, or nothing.
So is villainy at work here, or mere incompetence and indifference? And to what end?
A question to ponder when next you fill 'er up.