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Post Partisan
Posted at 02:35 PM ET, 04/29/2011

Republican cheap shots on Obama and gas prices


Republicans made the gas price debate even cheaper Friday with this misleading attack from House Speaker John Boehner:

"Gas prices have doubled — now at more than $4 per gallon — on President Obama’s watch."

This is unfair. At least as unfair as saying that unemployment shot up during George W. Bush's presidency — after his tax cuts, even! — without mentioning that a housing bubble that no one cared to pop busted right as Bush was leaving office.

Obama's drilling and environmental policies don't explain today’s higher gas prices. Gas prices reflect oil prices, and current domestic oil production largely reflects policy decisions made years go, since it takes time to get from new permit to new oil. Drilling policy also didn't change much between George W. Bush's presidency and Barack Obama's, until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident. In fact, before the oil spill, the president had begun the process of opening up many more areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling.

Critics point out, nevertheless, that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has projected decreases in U.S. crude oil production this year, and they blame Obama for his administration's more cautious approach to permitting in the gulf. Though lots of drilling is still going on according to plans established under the Bush administration, Obama's new regulation, the fairest version of this argument claims, has encouraged some drilling rigs to leave American shores, perhaps explaining projected declines.  

I disagree with elements of the president's drilling policy, too. But even if the critical argument is exactly right and shifts in policy over the last year explain all of the difference in crude output, current changes in American production are tiny in the global supply equation. The estimated 30,000 barrel-per-day decrease the EIA projects is only 0.03 percent of projected daily world consumption. Declines in the post-Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico are larger when not offset by increases elsewhere, but the projected 190,000 barrel-per-day decrease there is only 0.22 percent of daily world consumption.

One can still argue that the president should okay much more drilling in the gulf, off Alaska, off Virginia and off states that oppose rigs near their shores such as California, which might have larger affects on global supply. Yes, he should have a more liberal drilling plan. But that is a long-term polcy. Even if opening everything up were politically feasible, it would take years for it to produce new oil, and even then it's not clear that it would have a significant effect on the world crude market.

No matter how you slice it, the president isn't responsible for raising your gas prices. Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but this is a real cheap shot.

By  |  02:35 PM ET, 04/29/2011

 
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