Someone this morning told me that “Unless gas is $1.30 there’s no way I’m voting for Bush.”
(At least he’s got a reason for voting the way he votes. Last fall, during the California recall campaign, someone told me they were going to vote for Arnold. When I asked why, she told me “Oh, I don’t know.”)
Here’s my two cents on the gas price situation. First of all, gasoline IS expensive, but not to the point that it changes the American way of life. I understand that people on a tight budget are affected much more than those that are more affluent, but a lot of the griping I’ve heard over the recent rise in gas prices comes from people who drive SUVs or full-size pick-up trucks. I’m not all that sympathetic with those folks, regardless of their financial situation.
For a history of gas prices since 1979 adjusted for inflation, check out this page. You’ll notice that, though it fluctuates up and down a bit, the price of gas hasn’t really changed much since the mid-1980s. Here’s an article on the price gas within the context of history.
When it comes to the price of gas and the US Presidential elections, there are two options: Either it matters or it doesn’t matter. I think that it probably matters.
When it comes to controlling the price of gas, there are two options. We (the US) can influence the price or we cannot.
If we can’t, we can’t. We’re at their mercy, whoever “they” are.
If we can, there are three major ways and one minor way that we can do so.
First, the oil companies have a great deal of control over what you pay at the pump. If they really wanted prices lower, they could probably find a way to make them lower.
Second, the government can influence the price of gas directly by taxation and regulation, and indirectly through diplomacy and trade understandings with those that supply the oil.
Third, the US Marines can pretty much take whatever the hell they want if they want it bad enough.
Lastly, there is a slight amount of control available via the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the Alaskan wildlife preserves.
The price of gas, like the price of anything else, begins as a supply-and-demand issue. It is then influenced, probably more than anything else, by outside, “unnatural” forces. Like governments.
Look at the three and a half ways that I’ve said the price of gas can be influenced. Think long and hard about them. If only there was someone, anyone, who could manage to exert a little control over those areas.
“Oh,” you say. “That’s easy. Between the President and the Vice President, they pretty much control all of those three and a half areas.”
And that’s why gas prices will be down by this fall.
Do I think that the President is intentionally manipulating gas prices higher right now? Not really. But I imagine that he’s letting it happen, or at least not altering his plans because it is happening. The last I heard, we are continuing to replenish the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and this is probably contributing slightly to the higher prices we’ve seen so far this year. If Bush was really worried about the price of gas at this time, he could stop the replenishment until prices were a little better. Some Democrats have called for using oil in the Reserve to help combat high prices. I don’t expect this call to be heeded.
And remember, Bush may want to fill the Reserve for reasons other than lining his friends’ pockets. Maybe he knows something we don’t about the availability of oil in the near future. Like if there were to be, say, “issues” with Saudi Arabia or a conflict in Iran. Please note that I’m not predicting these things or suggesting that the refilling of the SPR indicates that they are on the horizon, just that the President might have a specific reason in mind and he is not doing it “just in case.”
If Bush wants to lower prices, he and/or Cheney can lean on some Big Oil people. (If, on the other hand, the Big Oil people control Bush and Cheney, it’s in their interest that they’re reelected and they will comply on their own.) If Big Oil can’t help much, Bush can push for tax legislation or diplomacy with the Arabs or Russians or someone to increase the incoming crude. Or they can tinker with trade agreements and tariffs. If all else fails, they can send in the Marines. And, hell, half of them are already in the region. If the Marines are busy, and they are, Bush can call for drilling in Alaska and dare the opposition to stop him over some trees.
The standard operating procedure for the current administration seems to be to give the other side just enough rope to hang themselves. They’re probably doing it again.
And, while gas won’t be down to $1.30 this fall, I expect it to be down from where it is right now if there’s anything at all we can do about it.
Milk, on the other hand, is probably going to be through the roof. Which one of Bush’s people is in the pocket of Big Milk? And we’re short of Marines, since they’re all fighting for oil…