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The Gaseous Policies of Barack Obama

The Strange Case of Dr. Chu

Give credit to Steven Chu. He’s not backing down and most recently reiterated to Congress that high prices are not much of a concern of this administration. (But Mr. Chu: if they go up any more, you will soon be out of a job, yes?) In contrast, and faced with reelection, the president now brags that we are using less fuel and pumping more of it than when he took office. Again, examine that surreal logic: because unemployment is high and GDP growth low, there is less demand for gas, and that is suddenly a good thing? (Note how -- for the first time? -- Obama does not blame Bush for lowering gas demand as he had serially for causing the economic doldrums: "Bush wrecked the economy but I was smart enough to make it far worse to lower gas demand.")

Then the president boasted further that domestic production is at an all-time high. Consider that weird reasoning as well: although he curtailed production on federal lands where there are now record levels of known oil and gas reserves, private industry has developed horizontal drilling and fracking -- despite, rather than because of, the president -- on mostly private land in the Dakotas and elsewhere. Is the reasoning, then, something like: "Congratulations to the oil industry for ignoring me"?

In sum, from January 2009 to January 2011 -- in the pre-Climategate days before Al Gore was a “sex poodle” and when the Himalayan glaciers were to be swamps and polar bears extinct -- new gas and oil production was considered “bad,” given that Obama was pushing wind, solar, and “alternative” energies. In those giddy cap-and-trade days, he could afford to pontificate because he was not up for reelection and world demand was sluggish, dropping oil prices at the wellhead. When the world economy began rebounding, demand picked up, prices spiked, and now Obama is in campaign mode: suddenly high gas prices are bad and he claims not that he wants his House-approved cap-and-trade bill pushed through his Democratically controlled Senate, but rather that all along he has encouraged private enterprise to drill while successfully persuading us to cut back our consumption (as if we did so because of the impressive oratory of Barack Obama rather than because he had managed to ensure millions of Americans now had no jobs to drive to work to).

The Omnipotent Mr. Obama

Why is it that Obama takes credit for the rebound of the stock market after the historic drops in September 2008, but sees the price of gas as extraneous in a way speculation on Wall Street is not? To say that gas prices have doubled under his watch is considered by sophisticates simplistic and reductionist, given all the factors beyond his control that contribute to such increases; to say that Wall Street has improved under his watch is to appreciate the brilliantly subtle and clever manner in which an omnipotent Obama has restored financial confidence and restored some of our lost 401(k) plans.

Obama keeps claiming that the oil companies are gouging us. Some of them may well be doing that; after all, they can profit well enough at the old $40-$50 a barrel levels on about 45% of our supply produced domestically, and “need” not receive $110 for their Texas or Dakota oil at the world price. But such thinking assumes that we all should sell our product at less than we might to help fellow Americans. The farmer who produces almonds need not sell his crop at $1 a pound off the tree because he does not “need” such profits, even though he realizes that world demand has forced the price up (from the old $.75 a pound) that he could receive by exporting his almonds. In other words, everything produced in the United States that has the potential to be exported has a “world” price in this globally interconnected world, and the fact that oil does too does not make its producers inherently evil. We might as well try to convince this new generation of gold miners to sell their product to fellow Americans at $500 an ounce to help lower the deficit rather than to “gouge” us at demanding a “world” price of $1500 an ounce that is well beyond what they “need” to profit from mining.

So here we are: as gas keeps spiraling the secretary of energy simply cannot any longer remark on the resulting deleterious effects since he is on record that they are not deleterious. And the president has urged us to consider, in lieu of Neanderthal drilling, our sizable algae reserves (does algae grow in the U.S. more abundantly than elsewhere?) in a manner that he once urged us to inflate our tires and "tune up" our electronic ignition cars.

So no worry: we have two Nobel laureates in Dr. Chu and Barack Obama to see us through.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)