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Post Partisan
Posted at 11:48 PM ET, 06/05/2011

Is President Obama intentionally raising gas prices?


On Face the Nation Sunday, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) said that a Republican can beat President Obama next year if the election is about the president’s record. Good thing Barbour decided not to run, then, because the governor also made a series of assertions about Obama’s record on energy that suggests he was confused about it, intentionally misleading, or both.

Barbour argued that the president is purposely raising the price of energy, saying that gas prices were below $2 a gallon when Obama took office — in the midst of a global economic crisis in which oil demand plummeted — and that they are twice as high now — what you’d expect during a global recovery. Obama has desperately tried to distance himself from higher gas prices, so an incredulous Bob Schieffer pressed the governor — does he really think that he can blame the president for those figures, and claim that it was all intentional?

Barbour doubled down, saying that Obama once favored a cap-and-trade program that would have mainly raised electricity prices. Yes, electricity prices, not gas prices. Different goods, different markets. Also, the Democrats’ cap-and-trade program never passed. It’s not policy. So it couldn’t be pushing any energy prices up at all, on electricity or gas.

Barbour went on to cite some of the Obama administration’s regulatory efforts, presumably those at the Environmental Protection Agency, that might affect energy prices. But they, too, are mainly aimed at the electricity and industrial sectors, not oil, and many of the EPA’s most controversial regulatory efforts haven’t come into force yet, either. They might eventually raise — though not “skyrocket” — the cost of electricity in some places, but the Obama administration actually appears determined to delay their enforcement as long as possible.

If anything, Obama deserves criticism for not being assertive enough on environmental policy. The president has actually been pretty soft on promoting policies that would make those who use dirty energy pay more for the pollution it produces, disappointing environmentalists. And the administration’s EPA rules have sometimes resulted from court-imposed deadlines, not the sort of aggressive policy agenda Barbour suggested.

A savvy player such as Barbour, though, sees that high gas prices are a political weakness for the president, even though they aren’t Obama’s doing. It’s not surprising he would try to exploit that opening, even if it means losing at the logical consistency game.

By  |  11:48 PM ET, 06/05/2011

 
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