Today: Feb 25, 2024

Political divide on gas

CHRISTOPHER MCBRIARTYStaff Writer
Finally, a new and inevitable talking point in the 2012 election has come up: gas prices. Everybody is affected by it, and everybody wants them to be lower. But in comparison, America has it remarkably easy. Here in Connecticut the price is around $4 a gallon; in the United Kingdom the price has just broken $8 a gallon.
But who is to blame for these inflated prices? It seems if you’re a politician in the United States, it’s President Barack Obama’s fault. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum even said high gas prices caused the 2008 recession— which shows how out-of-touch he is with the reality of the recession. But how does blaming a politician explain the high gas prices in Europe and other parts of the world?
The fact is it doesn’t. And it’s a myth to say any politician has complete control over how much is charged at the pump. “We are coupled to a global oil market,” said former Chief Scientist of BP, Steve Koonin, in a recent interview. “There’s no such thing as ‘foreign oil.’ There’s just ‘oil.’”
Guy Caruso, former Energy Information Administration chief, also commented on how little control the U.S. has on oil prices recently: “Say we import no oil from the Middle East. Does that mean we’re more ‘independent?’ The answer is no because we’re still vulnerable to any shocks to the system.”
And those shocks to the system include international affairs, such as the war threat with Iran—which explains the increases of late. Politicians seem to forget, or ignore, that the U.S. has to buy oil at the same global price as every other country. So the term, “Drill, baby, drill” made famous by the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is nothing more than a political sound-bite—both then in 2008 and now. As too is the recent campaign slogan by the Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich when he said he will get gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon if elected.
Drilling more in the U.S. to bring the cost down may seem to make sense at first, but if enacted it is merely a drop in the ocean. For that to work, it seems the U.S. would have to drill an unfathomable amount to affect the global market and bring the price down. But it’s not like it hasn’t been attempted. NPR reported at the end of February that the number of drilling-rigs in U.S. oil fields has quadrupled in the last four years. And domestic oil production hit an eight-year high in 2011. But the price isn’t going down.
Yet that hasn’t stopped politicians claiming that Obama is wrong to put the Keystone XL Pipeline Project on hold. The project is a $7 billion Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that has angered environmentalists, but many politicians are advocating for the pipeline to go ahead. They claim it will bring the cost of gas down, create thousands of jobs and it is environmentally safe. But before the energy bill which the pipeline was attached to was voted on, Rep. Ed Markey from Massachusetts proposed an amendment to keep any oil extracted by the pipeline on American land in America—which by many politicians reckoning would lower prices. The Keystone project passed, but the amendment somehow failed—254 of the 435 members voted against it.
So it seems by their own admission that either they don’t care about lowering gas prices or they are just fully aware it won’t affect prices. They had the opportunity because that amendment would have given the politicians exactly what they say they want: creating oil independency by drilling in the U.S. to lower prices. But political rhetoric and political action are two completely different things when it comes to black gold.

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