Out of thin air, House Speaker John Boehner sent an email yesterday with the subject line, “Labor Day Pain: Gas Prices Have Doubled on President Obama’s Watch.” As evidence of the “doubling” charge, Boehner links to his own website, where he claims, “The average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.85 when President Obama took office.”
Technically, he’s right. There was a sudden and temporary drop in gas prices just at the end of President Bush’s term — probably because there was a massive global recession at the end of President Bush’s term.
You know who really gets this? Mitt Romney, that’s who. Don’t expect any reality-based commentary like this out of him these days, but back when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney “responded to price spikes by describing them as the natural result of global market pressures and by calling for increases in fuel efficiency,” according to Alec MacGillis, writing in The New Republic this spring. Under pressure to call for a gas tax holiday when prices were high in 2006, Romney thought better of it. MacGillis quotes Romney:
“I don’t think that now is the time, and I’m not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline,” Romney said, according to the Quincy Patriot Ledger’s report at the time. “I’m very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay.”
Whether or not Romney or Boehner want to admit it now, they know that the idea that the U.S. president has much at all to do with gas prices is baloney. Domestic oil drilling won’t reduce gas prices; destroying the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won’t reduce gas prices. Check it out: gas prices around the world rise and fall together because they’re based on the global oil market.
Note that the chart above shows prices without taxes. If you factor in taxes, all the other lines get really high and the USA line stays pitifully low, because Americans pay such low gas taxes we can’t even maintain our infrastructure.
Speaker Boehner is a smart man and doesn’t need this explained to him. He knows he’s playing fast and loose with the truth when he says gas prices doubled under Obama. It’s just dumb luck that the confluence of global economic events that led to the very steep, though very temporary, drop in prices happened at the end of Bush’s term and not the beginning of Obama’s.
But if Boehner accepted the truth that gas prices have simply been volatile at the international level, he’d lose a talking point against Obama — and for oil drilling. This Congress, under Boehner’s leadership, has been uniquely dedicated to expanding oil drilling. And the GOP seems to think it’s a winning issue for them this November. They’re fighting tooth and nail against reality, but the fact is that fossil fuels are scarce and pinning our entire economy to continued dependence on them is a recipe for disaster.
But why take the long view for economic and environmental survival when you’ve got an election to win?