Democrats Vow to Fight for Cheap Gas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, national Democrats are testing out a new line of attack against Donald Trump. Nope, it’s not about the new evidence accumulating every day that the president bases major policy decisions on how they affect his personal wealth. The Democrats’ strategy is all about pinning a moderate rise in gas prices on Trump.

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic National Committee put out a “sprinkling of statements” blaming Trump for higher gas prices, the Daily Beast reports, the opening salvos in a sustained, coordinated messaging campaign by the party.

Gas price populism is nothing new. Despite the absence of any firm connection between White House policy and the price of fuel, blaming the sitting president for more expensive gas is a timeworn political tactic. Though only Republicans routinely work themselves into full-on drill-baby-drill mania, we’re now seeing that Democrats are fully capable of turning an uptick in gas prices into electioneering fodder.

It’s a maneuver that sits uncomfortably next to Democrats’ position as the major political party that views global warming as serious threat.

Few things are more damaging to the climate than cheap gas, which incentivizes more driving, the purchase of less fuel efficient cars, and sprawling development patterns. As economist Joe Cortright has written, Americans get “locked in” to larger cars with worse fuel economy for the lifecycle of the vehicle — which can be more than a decade.

Even with the increase in fuel prices in the past year, gas remains relatively cheap by recent standards:

Photo: Gas Buddy
Chart: Gas Buddy

And by the standards of international peer nations, America does not pay much at the pump:

Statistic: Average gasoline price per liter in selected countries in March 2018 (in U.S. dollars) | Statista
Via Statista

The longer America’s addiction to low fuel prices continues, the harder it will be to make a transition to carbon-efficient transportation and development patterns. Democrats are going to tie themselves in knots if they try to be the party fighting for cheap gas and against global warming at the same time.

  • deadindenver

    The hypocrisy in politics shows no bounds. The Dem’s are supposedly the party to protect the environment and against global warming What they are is hilarious and two faced. But Repuke’s are not any better so what’s a voter to do?

  • Watching the Commiecrat chutzpah here, from the people who went hysterical about drilling anywhere new and fracking where oil is already extracted, is hilarious.

  • Nobody trusts a lawless China to be the world’s reserve currency.

  • Joe R.

    You could also exempt the first $25K from FICA tax. That’s a highly regressive tax which the working poor pay on every dollar of income.

  • Joe R.

    One way to fix this is to pass on the cost of our automobile dependence to employers. Employers should be required to provide transit for their employees if no viable public transit exists. “Viable” could be defined as taking 45 minutes or less, or perhaps averaging a certain speed. If we did this, employers might not be in such a hurry to set up shop in greenfields. And without jobs, developers wouldn’t build suburban housing tracts in these areas.

    The fact Americans embraced the idea that they need to own an expensive, finicky machine just to do what they could formerly do on foot or bikes is astonishing. Doubtless marketing had much to do with it. For all the talk about how cars are tickets to freedom, to me they’ve always seemed like a ball and chain. I remember people looking at me in shock when they asked me when I was going to get a driver’s license and my answer was “Never. I live in NYC, don’t need a license because I can’t afford a car, and frankly don’t have much use for a car anyway.” As a teenager I saw how much my friends with cars were spending, or in my mind wasting. Owning a car is a great way to ensure you’ll live a life of indentured servitude, going from paycheck to paycheck.

  • Except that China is pumping billions into economic development projects around the world, not bombs.

  • Joe R.

    I didn’t mean don’t use hydrocarbons at all. Just don’t burn them for energy. If we didn’t send trillions of tons of hydrocarbons up in smoke each year they would cost less, as would everything on your list.

    As for turning low density plasma into useful electricity, can’t the moving charged particles pass through magnetic fields, which in turn would generate electricity? Or just use conventional methods like turbines. The biggest problem is actually getting the heat out fast enough to keep the chamber from melting. A friend of mine in the field gave me rough numbers like a 5 meter diameter chamber where 1.2 terawatts (that’s continuous, BTW, not intermittant) needs to be removed. So far they haven’t figured it out but to make commercial fusion viable the plasma density (and therefore the power output per cubic meter) has to be increased dramatically. Basically, the problem is how to extract heat from what is essentially a continuous nuclear explosion while keeping the chamber intact.

  • Joe R.

    Fission is great also, particularly thorium reactors. Unfortunately, it’s gotten a bad rap since the 1970s or we might have been energy independent by now.

    The key with fusion is to stop fighting nature and increase plasma densities. Of course, if you do that then you start running into material and heat transfer problems. I don’t doubt we’ll eventually get there. The latest developments have me hopeful it might really be in a decade.

  • Except that they have been engaged in a massive military build up as well. Moreover, the point is, no one trusts banking there. Even contract enforcement is dubious. Ever tried to do business there? I have.

    What color is the sky in your world?

  • 2wheeler

    After the Democrats single handedly passed a gigantic gas tax increase in CA…this is comical.

  • Gosh, this makes me feel nostalgic. As a transport service planner I rode this merry-go-round for my entire career back into 1972 (when State of Oregon leaders saw the Energy Crisis coming on the one hand and on the other hand eliminated the jobs of two of the staff working to get ready for it.). Prices low = people go hog wild with public and private spending on decisions that chain themselves to petroleum. Prices high = political posturing, including complaints that transit/rail/etc.systems are not able to handle the demand.

    In 1993 I wrote about this in commemoration of the 1973 Energy Crisis. It’s a bit dated, but this excerpt is still somewhat valid, showing how much has not been learned:

    http://www.berlin1969.com/#/the-terror-tax/3838578

  • Camera_Shy
  • They may have the buildup, but they don’t have the same baggage worldwide that US does since they haven’t been involved in the conflicts that we have. As for their banking, Western corporations are salivating at the opportunity to get their tentacles into Chinese pockets.

  • Guy Ross

    Standing on this issue is all you have left when the system has become so tilted in favor of the perpetuation of the successful. The democrats, now fully funded by the ultra wealthy, can no longer advocate for social and economic justice issues as this would upset their donors.

  • Guy Ross

    We are on total opposite sides of the ideological spectrum. However, the hypocrisy you rightly point out here is really breathtaking.

  • James White

    Your math schools look like a product of public education.

  • James White

    States don’t allow local governments to fund roads any other way.

    And considering that everyone needs fire,police, ambulance, garbage,et al. we’re all using them.

  • Guy Ross

    Once they DECIDE to live outside of the line of site of another human being, yes, they have no option.

    Once they DECIDE to secure housing 38 miles from their place of employment, yes, they have no option.

    Once the DECIDE to eat shit and live a fully sedentary lifestyle to the point they are physically incapable of walking, yes, they have no option.

    Dependency on a car is a series of decisions which bring you to a point where you are dependent on a car. No one is forcing this down anyone’s throat.

  • James White

    There are large daily, monthly and seasonal cost fluctuations to electricity. Whether or not ones bill reflects them is a different matter.

  • Guy Ross

    Como?

  • Drew Levitt

    I’d like to draw an important distinction between people who live in transit-inaccessible places by choice, vs those who do so because they cannot afford a better location. I have no sympathy for the rich people who freely choose to live in car-centric exurbs like Danville or Foster City. But the working-class family that gets evicted from their apartment in SF or Oakland and can only afford to settle out in Pittsburg or Antioch? Yes, they have my sympathy.

  • citrate reiterator

    At least in CA, Prop 13 protects homeowners against any serious increase in property tax…

  • LazyReader

    A typo on my part. The fact is a Gallon of gas hasn’t risen past anything much except inflation and modest price increases due to supply issues and occasional geopolitical stability.
    Price/gallon average in US | Adjusted inflation equivalent as of April 2018
    1929: $0.29 | $3.08
    1973: $0.39 | $2.29
    2011: $3.53 | $4.02
    Present average price: $2.947 or $2.67 in 2011 dollars. Gas is 32% less expensive than it was in 2011. (2.67x 32% = 0.8544) Purchasing power is what affected the price of gas. But new US supply extraction has made even the devalued dollar capable of purchasing more gas per dollar. Combined with increasing fuel economy (none of which is relevant to Obama era fuel economy standards, consumers will buy cars with good gas mileage if they want it or need it). The fact is, prices at the pump are no longer transit industry’s savior. The industry was collapsing when gas was pushing 4 bucks a gallon years ago. Even New York City transit is having problems, suffering a decline in ridership last year combined with growing maintenance failures. Ignoring $17 Billion in critical maintenance in favor of spending billions of new projects while ignoring the infrastructure crumbling before them. Major transit agencies in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, DC, St.
    Louis, Cleveland, Orlando, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Austin,
    Norfolk-Virginia Beach, and Charlotte have all suffered double-digit
    declines since their post-financial-crisis peaks. transit agencies care more about infrastructure empires than fixing what they have.

  • To be fair, the CA Legislature is NOT the Democratic Party at the national level by a long shot.

  • Eric

    12 cents = gigantic

  • Guy Ross

    I agree with you in general but your example reeks of those saying they have no option but to drive 100 miles a day because they have ‘mobility issues’. Sure, you can find an example, but let’s speak to the 98% of the population who exist outside that exception.

    BTW, Pittsburg is the end station of the Bart, 50 minutes to Oakland and you can get a three bedroom there for under 200K. Yeah, sucks renters get forced out, but even in your example they aren’t forced to drive. Again, its decisions.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Political Jockeying Over Gas Prices Is Divorced From Reality

|
Though many transportation reformers, economists and environmentalists would say that gas prices aren’t nearly high enough to disincentivize single-occupancy-vehicle use and to pay for the external harms, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill take it for granted that gas prices are too damn high. In fact, it’s one of the very, very few things that they do agree on these […]

John Boehner Makes Stuff Up About Gas Prices

|
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 […]

Bi-Partisan Political Veterans Team Up to Design a New Gas Tax System

|
Transportation reformers around the country have long been disappointed at politicians’ unwillingness to raise the gas tax to pay for infrastructure. It seems, to many, an obvious and necessary solution for the chronic underfunding of our transportation system. Meanwhile, to the politicians, it is just as obvious that raising consumer taxes during a recession is […]

Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton: Where Is the Leadership?

|
Joining Hillary Clinton in the push to reduce the federal gas tax is fellow New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who has railed about gas prices at least since they "soared" to $1.59 per gallon. As Politico reports, rather than talking about climate change and auto dependence, Schumer is pushing a Democratic plan to go after […]