Obama Will Make You Pay More at the Pump

Heritage Foundation

“What do you say to people who are losing patience with gas prices at $3 a gallon? And how much of a political price do you think you’re paying for that, right now?” This was a question asked of the president at a press conference in August…of 2006. The president was George W. Bush. In fact, it was a question that was asked in one way or another regularly during the entire eight years of the Bush presidency, regardless of where energy prices stood at that moment.

In May 2004, The New York Times reported that congressional Democrats “were stepping up pressure on the Bush Administration to ease gasoline prices,” when prices were still under $2/gallon. In April 2005, at another press conference, a journalist stated: “Mr. President a majority of Americans disapprove of your handling of social security, gas prices…” In 2006, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) exclaimed: “Since George Bush and Dick Cheney took over as president and vice president, gas prices have doubled…They are too cozy with the oil industry” after she drove one less-than-energy-efficient block to a press conference at a local Exxon station.

In 2008, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “blasted” the president for rising gas prices on his (and her) watch. In July 2008, ABC News asked the president what was his “short term advice for Americans about gas prices?” repeating a nearly identical question asked at a February 2008 press conference. In April 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said gas prices were “the number one issue facing America today.”

You get the point. Yet, at the end of President Bush’s presidency, gas prices were 9% lower than when he took office (adjusted for inflation). So where have these outspoken critics been since Bush left office?

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, gas prices have been on the steady rise, as have home energy prices. During his tenure, he presided over arguably the worst federal response to an oil spill in our nation’s history, and has pressed legislation on Capitol Hill that would, in his own words, cause electricity prices to “skyrocket.” Yet there has been almost nothing said by the media as consumers face $3/gallon gasoline at the pump in December for the first time in U.S. history and see their home heating bills soar in the winter months.

Now this week, analysts including former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, say Americans could be paying $5/gallon of gasoline by 2012. Investment banks are predicting a return to $100/barrel oil, and OPEC is refusing to raise production. All of this news would be less frightening if the White House were focusing on potential ways to lower energy prices. Instead, President Obama is admittedly fixated with raising them.

Just last week (as frigid temperatures and blizzards blasted Europe and the U.S.), the EPA announced that it will begin regulating power plants and oil refineries in an attempt to curb global warming. The new regulations will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by making it more expensive to turn fossil fuels into energy. And Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the Bureau of Land Management would issue new rules making it harder to develop natural resources on government-owned land. These measures will not only drive up the cost of electricity and gasoline but will also make us more dependent on foreign sources of energy.

But none of these actions compare to the brazen way President Obama has unilaterally declared the U.S. oil industry dead. During the BP oil spill, Obama needlessly declared a moratorium on deepwater and shallow water drilling, since no White House advisers apparently could draw a distinction between the two. After two federal courts said the moratorium was illegal, the Obama administration instead moved to a de facto moratorium, by issuing no permits, while speeding up the permitting process for wind farms.

In October, President Obama “lifted” the moratorium, but since then has issued almost no new permits. In late November, his administration effectively issued a seven-year ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and across the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. We’re not even talking about ANWR anymore; these are publicly and politically accepted areas of drilling. These actions, of course, increase our reliance on foreign oil, which as OPEC points out, will only become more expensive in the near future.

Finally, this all spells disaster for the jobs market. Higher energy prices translate into higher costs for small businesses, which cause less hiring. Energy producers are moving platforms out of U.S. waters rather than have multi-million dollar assets sit idle as the president destroys an industry. And local businesses and retailers who service this industry along the coast are losing money and employees, if not entirely shutting down.

President Obama knows energy prices are skyrocketing. The liberal mantra has long been to disincentivize Americans from purchasing cheap fossil fuels, by driving costs up. Because the only way consumers will choose the vastly-more-expensive wind and solar alternatives is if all prices are high, rather than wait for the market to bring alternative prices down. This is a reckless and devastating way to make a point about global warming at the expense of American families.

Nearly no questions have been asked of President Obama by the media regarding: 1) his bungled response to the oil spill; 2) his unilateral policies that are creating higher home energy prices; 3) rising gas and oil prices; or 4) the de facto moratorium on domestic oil exploration. It’s time to start asking the White House some tough questions. A two year moratorium on accountability is long enough.

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