The Politics of Gas Prices

gas pricesIt would be hard not to notice the recent spike at the pump. My initial reaction when I was handed a receipt for the $59 it cost to fill up my tank was: I'm glad I'm driving a small, clean diesel car that gets outrageous gas mileage.

Having said that, I may still try to organize my day differently so I am a little more efficient when I do have to drive.

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It seems somewhat obvious that President Barack Obama will get blamed for these high gas prices. America's worst recessions were preceded by periods of high gas prices. Apart from that, voters with less money in their pockets will be cranky, which is never good for the incumbent.

By hammering on gas prices, Mitt Romney is taking us back to the American gas shortage of the '70s when candidate Ronald Reagan booted President Jimmy Carter from office. I had a different response to Romney calling for the firings of the heads of the E.P.A., the Dept. of the Interior, and the Dept. of Energy because they are "a gas hike trio."

I viewed that as a shrewd political move, aimed at engaging the Tea Party voter, who Romney unfortunately cannot afford to sacrifice to Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. Any time you talk about lobbing off an inefficient tentacle of government, the Tea Party is in!

It's true that the Obama Administration officials have stated publicly that it is going to take high prices for Americans to embrace alternative sources of energy. But as painful as prices are right now for drivers who rely on their cars to make a living, or American families trying to stretch their household budgets, the reality is high gas prices cannot be blamed on a single pol exclusively. Nor can one candidate bring prices down in just a few months.

Newt Gingrich wants us to think he alone can bring the cost down to $2.50 a gallon. But voters might want to do a little research about whether he can. 

Understanding that the price is set by overseas exporters and commodities brokers long before the individual station owner puts his price sign up makes me think the solution is going to be in alternative energies.

I still think Jon Huntsman's view of the energy crisis was the most realistic. He's for creating a greater variety of energy sources so we can break our addiction to foreign oil, pointing out that we spend half our trade deficit on foreign oil. He's talking about responsibly extracting gas from shale while protecting the environment and considering new, clean technologies, which could create new jobs in the energy sector. I know he isn't running anymore but maybe it's helpful to point out that there are green Republicans in the party. Huntsman is the same guy who pointed out that Americans are really paying more in the $12 to $13 range per gallon when you consider the costs of protecting shipping routes and other military intervention to stabilize oil producing countries.

It's clear something needs to be done but it is equally clear that in a free market system, it is going to be up to businesses to innovate and for consumers to vote with their wallets by embracing more fuel efficient cars and other new technologies. And maybe Romney can replace the Department heads in his cross hairs with Jon Huntsman, assuming he's elected come November. He would make a great Energy Secretary, don't you think?

 

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other bloggers have to say, read Who's Responsible for Our High Gas Prices?

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