Lowdown on gas prices

Thursday September 13, 2012

One thing that can be said with certainty when gas prices go up (Eagle, Sept. 12) is that they will go down again. By the same token, when they go down they will assuredly rise again. What varies, in particular during political silly season, is who gets the blame or the credit.

When gas prices went up this past May, Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma put the blame squarely on President Obama. When gas prices went down, Mr. Obama received none of the credit from foes who changed the subject. Now that they are going back up, it is once again the president’s fault.

In fact, no president, Democrat or Republican, has much to do with gas prices, for good or ill. They are largely determined by the price of oil world-wide, and are affected by political turmoil, embargoes, economic slumps and weather events. When gas prices go up in America they go up everywhere, and when they push $4 a gallon in the United States they are in the vicinity of $8 a gallon in Western Europe, which taxes gasoline far more heavily than does the United States and also has a 21st century rail infrastructure that puts ours to shame.

When gas prices go up domestically, Mr. Obama is blamed for allegedly hindering domestic oil production, but that doesn’t jibe with the facts. Last year, imported oil only accounted for 45 percent of consumption nationwide. That figure was as high as 60 percent during the administration of George W. Bush, an oilman and friend of Middle Eastern oil oligarchs.

The best way to reduce oil consumption, foreign and domestic, is by driving fuel- efficient vehicles, which has the significant added benefit of reducing air pollution and global warming. As part of the bail-out that saved much of the U.S. auto industry and thousands of jobs, President Obama demanded that General Motors and Chrysler produce more fuel-efficient vehicles so they could compete with popular cars made by Toyota and Honda. Although U.S. companies had long asserted that Americans wanted big gas guzzlers, GM reports that sales of its Chevy Cruze are up 25 percent over a year ago. Ford, which was ahead of the curve on smaller cars and didn’t take the bailout, is planning to introduce a gas-electric hybrid to compete with the Toyota Prius.

General Motors’ gas-guzzling Hummer, of course, is out of production and going extinct. One way to handle the vagaries of gas prices is to drive a vehicle that doesn’t need constant trips to the pump.


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