The latest Washington Post/ABC poll shows that high gas prices are hurting President Obama's approval ratings. Every time fuel prices go up, politicians get nervous, because voters apparently expect the federal government to direct the world market price the minute gas rises over three dollars a gallon. Those politicians should know better, but that doesn't stop them from behaving as though Americans have every right to blame Washington — or at least their opponents in Washington, anyway — for volatility in the oil market.
President Obama had his turn playing gas-price politics two weeks ago, when he claimed that his energy policies could stop gas prices from fluctuating — after only “a couple years” of effort.
Republicans are preparing to counter-attack when Congress reconvenes next month, and, already, their promises are even more brazen, blaming the president for high gas prices and claiming that the GOP has a way to slash them — immediately. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has three bills on deck that would expand domestic offshore oil and gas production. He told ABC News:
The bottom line of all three of those bills is that it would send a very strong signal to the markets that the United States is serious about not being dependant on foreign oil, and I think that would have a price effect on world-wide oil.
Really? Sure, allow more drilling. But promising to tap more of America’s oil resources — a process that takes years — won’t bring prices down any time soon. More domestic drilling might, someday, act to reduce prices some — but in the context of a massive world oil market, in which American-produced crude would still be just one variable among many others affecting prices. Long-term trends such as steadily increasing demand from the developing world, for example, will keep upward pressure on the cost of gasoline.
It's easy, though, for Hastings to make his oil-price promises, because Democrats won't allow drilling in many of the areas he'd like to see it, anyway. West Coast senators would eat their sunglasses before opening up the Pacific's outer continental shelf. Hastings's dubious predictions about pushing the world oil market will never face the harsh scrutiny of reality. Republicans get to sit back, watch oil prices rise, and say, “I told you so.” And all in time for the presidential election.