Here we go again. Gasoline prices are rising rapidly and already have shattered the $4-a-gallon mark in California. Industry analysts say the all-time national average record of $4.11 could be shattered this summer. Some stations in Los Angeles are charging $4.93. Americans hired Barack Obama in 2008 partly in hope of finding relief from that summer’s pain at the pump. As the agony returns, voters could be primed by November to pull the lever for anybody but Barack.
The Golden State has the unwelcome distinction of having the nation’s highest gas prices, having reached $4.03 on Presidents Day, according the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Though the national average was $3.56, the California price jumped 18.9 cents in just the past week. Alaska, Florida and traditionally pricey states in the Northeast are not far behind. The standard rule is that each penny increase sucks about $1 billion out of the economy, so the financial impact will be felt from coast to coast.
This latest gas-price jolt is predictable. President Obama has done much to impede the supply of petroleum products to consumers. Most particularly, he exploited the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an excuse to clamp down on oil drilling in the Gulf and also along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Last week, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed an energy bill by a vote of 237-187 that would reverse Mr. Obama’s recent decision to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. With his December announcement to delay a final ruling on the project until 2013, Mr. Obama, as a favor to his radical anti-business political base, passed up an opportunity to create an estimated 20,000 construction jobs. The House bill grants pipeline developer TransCanada a permit to proceed with the project and allows for expanded oil drilling in offshore reservoirs and in the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sticks to his usual script, he’ll prevent the upper chamber from even voting on the measure, saving the president from the embarrassment of vetoing an economy-boosting measure in an election year. Additionally, fellow Democratic senators can be expected to reiterate support for the president’s move to end tax breaks for the oil industry. Don’t be surprised if they also call for hearings to probe “price-fixing” by oil executives as the pain at the pump inevitably increases.
Mr. Obama would be wise to make a virtue of necessity and orchestrate Senate passage of the energy bill. By signing it, he could win back erstwhile supporters disillusioned with his economy-crippling leadership.
More likely, though, Mr. Obama will simply double down on class-warfare rhetoric about the oil industry needing to pay its “fair share” in hopes of diverting attention from the growing gas-price crunch. Promises of hope and change won’t smooth the campaign trail for the president this time around. If gas prices continue their upward trajectory until Election Day, voters are likely to look to a new leader to heal their wounded wallets.