Obama dances the presidential gas price two-step

Posted on April 22, 2011


Have no fear about those skyrocketing gas prices! President Barack Obama has decided to launch yet another task force, joining his deficit commission, and his other deficit commission, and his other energy independence commission, and his national energy policy task force on energy efficiency, to get to the bottom of why gas prices have been pumped up (pun intended) so rapidly in late 2010 and early 2011.

Obama said Thursday that the Justice Department will try to “root out” cases of fraud or manipulation in oil markets, even as Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a variety of legal reasons may be behind gasoline’s surge to $4 a gallon. “We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain,” Obama said at a town-hall style meeting at a renewable energy plant in Reno.

Obama, decrying such levels as yet another hardship “at a time when things were already pretty tough,” said Holder was forming the Financial Fraud Enforcement Working Group. The task force will focus some of its investigation on “the role of traders and speculators” in the oil-price surge. The group will include several Cabinet department officials, federal regulators and the National Association of Attorneys General.

Sounds quite forceful, doesn’t it?  Sounds like Obama’s really going to put the screws to the price-gougers, doesn’t it?

Sounds like … but isn’t.

Obama’s “task force” is just another bureaucratic boondoggle created for no other reason than to give the asleep-at-the-wheel American public the impression that anything is actually going to be done about gas prices. But Obama’s in excellent company, no matter which political party you support. Because every OTHER president’s fuel efficiency efforts have been such raging successes, right?

And still, somehow, despite all this government scrutiny and strict control and federal law, we’re suckling off the same oil nib now that we were suckling from in the 1970s.

Ronald Reagan, the uber-right’s “American Idol,” actually signed a law to LOWER fuel efficiency standards, reversing the higher standards set into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1975. Why would a president do that, on the back-end of the United States’ first real “energy crisis”? Why? Because lobbyists and executives for General Motors, Shell and Exxon oil, and certain robe-wearing friends of his from 6000 miles to the East convinced him that American gas prices were, at that time, TOO LOW.  So, Reagan, the patron saint of TEA Party revisionist history, felt that Americans weren’t paying enough for their gasoline and home heating fuel, and signed a law to jack up prices by an across-the-board median of 27 percent.

In 2003, Bush told us that “Iraqi oil will pay for the entire cost of the war.” In 2005, Bush said he “deeply felt the pain experienced by American citizens over seemingly unfair gas prices.” In 2007, when the average national price ranged from $2.17 to $3.22, then-Sen. Barack Obama demanded that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Big Oil for “price manipulation.” In 2008, presidential candidate Obama urged the Justice Department “to open an investigation into whether energy traders have been engaged in illegal activities that have helped drive up the price of oil and food.” Obama also called for “a windfall profits penalty on oil selling at or over $80 per barrel.” As of Easter 2011, a barrel of oil is selling at slightly above $112, gas is $3.74 at the national average, and Exxon posted yet another miraculous record quarterly profit for the 25th consecutive fiscal quarter. What happened to the windfall profits tax? (That sound you hear is crickets.)

There’s a REASON why energy-efficient light rail and mag-lev trains receive so much state and federal government opposition, no matter where they’re proposed and no matter how much factual evidence proves that they are less pollutive and more effective than America’s love of the one-body/one-car mindset.  There’s a REASON why the moment somebody farts in some oil-producing wherethef*ckistan, the speculators leap and you see gas prices spike immediately at your local gas pump. There’s a REASON why you see gas prices increase 80-cents in three weeks, but take 11 months to fall back 30-cents to a new “what the market will bear” price plateau. There’s a REASON why the exact same car you own right now has an identical model in Japan that’s getting more than 50 miles-per-gallon. There’s a REASON why every presidential plan always has an implementation date that’s an average of 23.7 years in the future.

And, closer to home, there’s a REASON why solar energy systems in the sun-drenched American southwest are still scoffed at as “not effective enough” and cost an average of $8837 to install in your home … and why the local utility companies charge you a FEE to buy back any excess electricity you generate but don’t need.

Big Oil and The Big Three in Detroit *OWN* the United States government, and all we can do is dance awkwardly when they pull our strings, like the good little puppets we’ve proven to them we are – by doing nothing, for decades, about the Big Lie of American fuel efficiency. They *KNOW* the convenience of being able to drive to the Circle K to buy corn chips and beer at 3:37 a.m. means more to us than a rational gas pricing system.

In other words, we do have a problem with waste, abuse, and fraud.  We have wasted years by not developing our own rich resources. We’ve allowed ourselves to be abused by oil companies that take billions of dollars out of our pockets every month and then get federal subsidies for doing so. We’ve defrauded ourselves by not taking any cognitive, decisive or even simple self-preservationist action against the enemy we all know and hate.  And if we’d acted on any one of those affronts, it would have not only would insulated us from the political shocks from turmoil of “unrest” in oil-producing regimes, but would also employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in high-paying, energy-producing jobs.

We just continue running on the wheel.

So enough with blaming only Obama for current gas prices and our continued addiction to foreign oil. Every president since Lyndon Johnson has signed a “fuel efficiency plan” into law that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. America’s international energy dependence is part of a very simple, but very well-oiled machine. Obama’s “commission” is just the latest turning of the screw.