Race to the Bottom: The Sad State of Public Discourse on Gas Prices

It’s hard to imagine another commodity that would become a top news story each time its price rose a couple of cents. But such is America’s addiction to oil. And while the appetite for these stories appears to be bottomless, major media outlets don’t seem to have much stomach for examining the complicated set of factors that undergird the issue.

Image: ##http://www.consumerblotter.com/car-complaints/gas-prices-on-the-rise/##Consumer Blotter##

Frustratingly, leading Republicans are doing a pretty good job convincing the American public that the president can dictate prices at the pump, even while they propose a transportation policy that would only further entrench American gasoline dependence.

Yesterday environmental think tank the Post Carbon Institute reported “nearly two-thirds of the voters say they disapprove of the way the President is handling gasoline prices and only 26 percent approve of his energy policies. Interestingly, 54 percent of those polled believe the President can control gas prices.”

Nathan Hamblen at Network blog N8han speaks for the rest of us:

I am in the “dumb” group on all of the questions. I disapprove of the way the government has long handled gasoline prices, by failing to put a substantial tax on it when prices were low. Doing so would have given us some room to maneuver in the future, when prices start to rise in earnest. I do not approve of the president’s energy polices, which strive to burn all remaining fuel reserves as quickly and cheaply as possible. And finally, of course the president (or government) can control (or affect) gas prices: they can increase them with a tax. Our government is unable to lower gas prices in a crisis only because it has insufficiently taxed gas in the past. And we are too recognizably broke to attempt a direct subsidy—one hopes.

For all the wrong reasons, the population correctly disapproves of American energy policy. They may go on disapproving, and electing increasingly ridiculous charlatans promising the impossible, until they get to choose between food and gasoline, or neither.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Steven Can Plan analyzes how the Chicago area splits its air pollution reduction funds between road projects and active transportation, and the resulting environmental impacts. Transit Miami, after putting pressure on FDOT to build safer roads, wins a victory for pedestrians and cyclists. And Rust Wire looks at the life- and attitude-altering decision to go car-free in a second-tier city.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The New Climate Villain Is Cheap Oil

|
Long-term climate prospects brightened somewhat in 2015. Pope Francis put climate care on the moral and political agenda. President Obama rejected the Keystone XL dirty-oil pipeline. Denialist heads of state were routed in Canada and Australia, and their brethren in the U.S. faced growing ridicule. To cap it off, nearly 200 nations signed the UN Paris […]

Joe Lieberman: Did Someone Say “High Gas Prices”?

|
How obsessed is Washington with gas prices? Acting on a Streetsblog post from last week, a reader wrote Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman urging him to support legislation that would bolster funding for Amtrak. In response, Lieberman’s office sent a long, long form letter outlining the many ways the senator is — you guessed it — […]

National Transit Union Proposes a Smart Fuel Subsidy

|
Tired of hearing about gas tax holidays, bridge toll suspensions, and rebates for drivers? Here’s a policy proposal that will actually improve commutes, not just encourage trips by car: subsidizing fuel for transit systems. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, rising diesel prices are hitting transit agencies hard (preview only), leading to […]

Americans Turn to Prayer at the Pump

|
As this country goes bonkers over $4-per-gallon gasoline, it would seem a good time for a sober discussion about our near-total dependence on one unsustainable mode of transport. But as modern Americans, we generally prefer whining to introspection. And when whining doesn’t work, well, there’s always prayer. Enter Rocky Twyman, a choir director and PR […]