Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pay No Attention to Everything I've Said and Done - I Want Lower Gas Prices!

Behold, the narrative has changed. Four years ago, gas prices were too high because Bush and his Republican henchmen were letting their buddies in the oil industry rip you off, and Obama was going to put an end to it. Today he’s telling us that after three years, he's decided that he's been helpless to do anything about it

We know there's no silver bullet that will bring down gas prices or reduce our dependence on foreign oil overnight… But what we can do is get our priorities straight and make a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem.
More on that later. But meanwhile, now that gas is running about $3.75 a gallon for regular here in Northern Virginia, let’s have a look at what some other fluids cost (prices rounded to the nearest dollar, exclusive of tax; liters are treated as quarts for calculation purposes):
  • Milk: My local Safeway charges $4 for a gallon of 1%.
  • Apple cider is on sale at Safeway this week for $5 a gallon (it’s usually $6).
  • Beer: I looked at the cheapest of the cheap, i.e., Bud Lite. A 24-pack of 12-ounce bottles goes for about $18. Since there are about 11 bottles in a gallon, that works out to about $8 a gallon.
  • Dasani water: A one-liter bottle will set you back $2.39 or about $9.50 a gallon (I couldn’t decide whether to round up or down…)
  • How about wine? I’m not talking about some 94-point RobertParker-rated Napa. I’m talking about the classic “Three-Buck Chuck,” available only at Trader Joe’s under the Charles Shaw label. It goes for (duh) three bucks per 750 milliliter bottle. That’s about ¾ of a quart, so a gallon of cheap wine will run you about $16.
  • Mouthwash is basically almost 100% water, with a few chemicals added. A one-liter bottle of Listerine costs $5.32 at Walmart, or about $20 a gallon (check the list of active ingredients – they total up to about ¼ of one percent).
  • Starbucks coffee (you knew I was going to get there, didn’t you?): A 12-ounce cup costs about $2, or about $25 a gallon.
  • I have an old soft spot for Virginia Gentleman bourbon, which is far from being the best around, I'm told (I'm not really a bourbon drinker). It costs $12 per 750-milliliter bottle, or about $64 a gallon.
  • Contact lens cleaning solution: A 10-ounce bottle of what amounts to distilled water with a little salt and trace amounts of other chemicals will run you $17. That’s a cool $217 per gallon.
You might have noted that these are all products that don’t have to be sucked up from a mile under the ocean or from Arctic wastes or from stinking deserts owned by religious fanatics who hate us almost as much as they love the money we give them so they can wage jihad against us, products that don’t have to be shipped from overseas to U.S. refineries and once refined, shipped hundreds of miles to your local gas station, that aren’t subject to thousands of government regulations that discourage production and drive prices up. Hell, a lot of them were produced within fifty miles of your home. And yet, somehow, their producers all charge you more than what you pay for gasoline, and you don’t bat an eye, beyond the occasional kvetch about Starbuck’s. Nine-fifty a gallon for water, for crying out loud!

Still, it really stinks when you find yourself burning fifty bucks a week at the gas pump. And you know what? President Obama is right when he says there are no quick fixes, that “there’s no silver bullet that will bring down gas prices...overnight”

That’s a wonderful bit of misdirection, the kind that he excels at. It’s the classic strawman debating trick – attacking an argument that no one is making. If anyone running for public office has said we can slash gasoline prices overnight, he’s managed to keep it out of the newspapers. But Obama pretends that person exists anyway, 1) hoping that you don't notice, and 2) hoping that you conclude that your president is a really thoughtful guy.

Yes, Mr. President and Master of the Bloody Obvious, we know there’s nothing you can do to slash prices overnight; we knew it before you decided to show us how wise and thoughtful you were by pointing it out to us like we're a bunch of second-graders. But there’s plenty you can do - and have done - to keep prices high for years on end. For example:
  • You can appoint a Secretary of Energy who, even before being confirmed, stated he would like to see us pay the same for gasoline as they do in Europe; markets love that kind of talk. 
  •  When a rig drilling for oil a mile below the ocean’s surface blows up, you can stop issuing permits to drill for oil anywhere in the ocean, including water just a few hundred feet deep. 
  • You can sic the EPA on an oil company after they've bought a lease and spent billions developing it, only to be told they can’t get a permit to drill because doing so might raise air pollution to near (not “over,” or even “at,” just “near”) legal limits in the Arctic in the area around the drilling site. You think that lost investment isn’t going to show up at the pump next time your constituents fill up? 
  • You can forbid the construction of a new oil pipeline after three years of studies showed construction would likely have insignificant environmental impact.
  • You can get your friends in the non-Fox news to report that you’re finally allowing new oil drilling leases, while carefully concealing the fact that while you’re letting oil companies buy the leases, you’re not going to lift a finger to actually allow them to drill. Kinda like getting the first and last month’s rent from your new tenant but not allowing him to move in.
  • While running for president, you can state from the get-go that you want gas prices to rise.
  • And finally, you can suck up to the Muslim fanatics running Iran (who hate you, by the way) as they use the billions we send them to build nuclear weapons. You can remain silent when Iranians protest in the streets after government-rigged elections, hoping that your display of goodwill will turn fanatics into reasonable people. You can wring your hands and do nothing when Iran thumbs its nose at you in the development of their nuclear program. Markets hate uncertainty; when the supply of a commodity becomes more uncertain, the price goes up. Iran is either going to get a nuclear bomb or Israel will launch a war to stop them; either way, the effect on worldwide oil process will be catastrophic – just the talk of an Israeli strike in the past few weeks has bumped gas prices up.  A strong United States, led by a strong president, could have stopped this. I’m just old enough to remember when another Democratic president said: 
...we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
 Today our president tells us:
...what we can do is get our priorities straight and make a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem.
The problem is not that there is no silver bullet that can solve our problems overnight - if there were, any imbecile could be a good president. The problem is that you not only haven't "made a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem," you haven't even looked for a water pistol, let alone a silver bullet. Don't tell us you want lower gas prices, because by word and by deed, you've spent the last four years proving you want higher prices, not lower.

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