High Gas Prices and the Memory Hole
As Hugh Hewitt would say, Jim Geraghty proves to be indispensable once again, pulling up quotes from the memory hole of a decade ago:
“If drilling [in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] were approved today, it would be ten years before oil arrived in refineries.” — Sierra Magazine, January-February issue, 2002.
Similarly, while we've all seen the CNBC interview with then-candidate Barack Obama back in June of 2008 when he signed off on high energy prices as long as they rose "gradually," he was also concurrently giving interviews in which he condemned them as a cudgel against the Democrats' nemesis, as Investor's Business Daily notes:
When gas prices hit $4 a gallon in 2008, candidate Barack Obama said it was due to previous failed energy policies. Now that prices are heading still higher, President Obama calls it progress.
Already, pump prices are higher than they've been in previous years, suggesting they will top $4 soon and possibly reach an unprecedented $5 this summer.
President Obama is starting to notice the political implications. So he sent Robert Gibbs — now a top campaign adviser — out to tell the public not to worry.
"Just on Friday, the Department of the Interior issued permits that will expand our exploration in the Arctic," Gibbs said Sunday. "Our domestic oil production is at an eight-year high, and our use of foreign oil is at a 16-year low. So we're making progress."
"Progress" isn't exactly how Obama described the country's energy picture in 2008, when gas prices were closing in on $4 a gallon. Then, it was a clear sign of "Washington's failure to lead on energy," which was "turning the middle-class squeeze into a devastating vise-grip for millions of Americans."
"For the well-off in this country," Obama said in May 2008, "high gas prices are mostly an annoyance, but to most Americans they're a huge problem, bordering on a crisis."
In August that year, he declared rising energy costs to be "one of the most dangerous and urgent threats this nation has ever faced" and that gas prices "are wiping out paychecks and straining businesses."
While Gibbs is right that domestic production has climbed in the past three years, Obama's policies had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
Oil coming from offshore wells was in the pipeline, so to speak, during the Clinton and Bush years, when those permits were issued. And the oil pouring out of North Dakota is the result of drilling on private lands.
Obama, in fact, has made it clear for years that he has no real interest in boosting domestic production.
Which brings us to David Harsanyi's latest piece in Real Clear Politics. David asks, "Aren't High Gas Prices What Democrats Want?"
According to the Institute for Energy Research, there is enough natural gas in the U.S. to meet electricity demand for 575 years at current fuel demand, enough to fuel homes heated by natural gas for 857 years and more gas in the U.S. than there is in Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and some place called Turkmenistan combined. Oil? The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world's top oil producer. There are tens of billions of easily accessible barrels of offshore oil here at home -- and much more oil around the world.
Yes, gas prices have spiked an average of 14 cents a gallon in the past month and about 30 cents a gallon since last November, according to AAA. Oil prices jumped to a nine-month high -- more than $105 a barrel -- after the Iranians shut down their own energy exports to Britain and France so they could start a much-needed nuclear program, which is, no doubt, for wholly peaceful purposes.
Given the fungibility of commodities and the track record of civilization in the Middle East, we'll likely always have to deal with occasionally painful fluctuations in the price of energy, regardless of what we do at home -- drilling and new pipelines included. Still, fluctuations have a lot better track record than price controls.
Subsidizing quixotic green companies or creating carbon credits won't stop the rules of basic economics. If the gas crunch starts hitting the economy, it's doubtless that we will get an earful of populist hand-wringing and that we'll hear the administration once again blame wealthy speculators and nasty oil companies.
Yet in the end, high gas prices are part of the plan. This is what the administration wants.
Do I hear six dollars a gallon? Why yes, I do!
More: "Orwell wept."