The day after Christmas of 2008, a New York Times editorial titled “The Gas Tax” was a lump of coal in every motorist’s stocking:
There are several ways to tax gas. One would be to devise a variable consumption tax in such a way that a gallon of unleaded gasoline at the pump would never go below a floor of $4 or $5 (in 2008 dollars), fluctuating to accommodate changing oil prices and other costs. Robert Lawrence, an economist at Harvard, proposes a variable tariff on imported oil to achieve the same effect and also to stimulate the development of domestic energy sources.
In both cases, the fuel taxes could be offset with tax credits to protect vulnerable segments of the population.
While oil prices are all but sure to rise again as the world emerges from recession, further tempering consumption with a gas tax would both slow the rise in the price of crude and steer more revenue from energy consumption to the United States budget, rather than that of oil-exporting countries.
A bitter recession is not the most opportune time to ratchet up the price of energy. But if the Obama administration is to meet its twin objectives of reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and cutting its emissions of greenhouse gases, it needs to start thinking now about mechanisms to curb the nation’s demand for energy when the economy emerges from recession in the future.
This also would serve as a signal to American automakers and American drivers that the era of cheap gasoline is not going to last.
And now, with gasoline over $4.00 a gallon in California and rapidly approaching that key emotional price-point in other states, yesterday, the Times ran the following headline: “Rising Gas Prices Give G.O.P. Issue to Attack Obama:”
Rising gasoline prices, trumpeted in foot-tall numbers on street corners across the country, are causing concern among advisers to President Obama that a budding sense of economic optimism could be undermined just as he heads into the general election.
White House officials are preparing for Republicans to use consumer angst about the cost of oil and gas to condemn his energy programs and buttress their argument that his economic policies are not working.
In a closed-door meeting last week, Speaker John A. Boehner instructed fellow Republicans to embrace the gas-pump anger they find among their constituents when they return to their districts for the Presidents’ Day recess.
“This debate is a debate we want to have,” Mr. Boehner told his conference on Wednesday, according to a Republican aide who was present. “It was reported this week that we’ll soon see $4-a-gallon gas prices. Maybe higher. Certainly, this summer will see the highest gas prices in years. Your constituents saw those reports, and they’ll be talking about it.”
They’ll also be talking about a president who explicitly campaigned on raising energy prices in order to — as we’ve since found out — help create his “green” crony venture socialism failed business ventures such as Solyndra and Fisker (not to mention the disastrous Government Motors Volt). And blocked the Keystone XL pipeline to assuage his far left environmentalist base.
In 2008, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, and tacitly, the San Francisco Chronicle all supported the notion of the then-incoming President Obama raising energy prices on consumers. Have gas prices risen sufficiently “gradually” to benefit Mr. Obama reelection chances? The Times doesn’t seem to think so, despite having called for them to rise three and a half years ago.
Update: “In Vicious, Personal Attack, Rick Santorum Questions the President’s . . . Environmental Views:”
The comments came at an event in Columbus shortly after the former senator from Pennsylvania said efficacy and safety improvements in oil drilling technology are considered by the president to be “a dangerous technology.”
“It doesn’t fit his pattern of trying to drive down consumption, trying to drive up your cost of transportation to accomplish his political science goal of reducing carbon dioxide,” he said.
Obama, he continued, is not motivated by “your quality of life.”
“It’s not about your job. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” Santorum said. “Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology. But no less a theology.”
Environmentalism is an alternative religion? Gaia forfend!