Skyrocketing gasoline prices have sent President Obama’s public-approval ratings plummeting. The White House is searching for someone to blame, but the problem rests not with the pumps but with the president.
Mr. Obama maintains that lack of supply is not driving up prices. However, domestic demand is not the issue either, since U.S. energy use per capita has been on the decline. So the White House has formed an interagency working group to root out the “traders and speculators” whom he says are responsible for America’s gasoline woes. This type of populist blame-game is typical of the Obama administration’s approach to policy challenges, and diverts attention from the true proximate causes of the oil spike, such as the crises in the Middle East.
If prices are being manipulated, perhaps Mr. Obama should take it up with the OPEC potentates who are the most direct beneficiaries. Mr. Obama also said he wants to end what he says is a $4 billion annual taxpayer subsidy to oil and gas companies, though how removing a subsidy will lower gasoline prices has yet to be explained.
Mr. Obama’s scapegoat safari notwithstanding, the current energy crisis underscores the general failure of administration energy policies. The promised brave new world of green technologies is slow in coming, and the government is quickly putting reliable domestic fossil fuels further out of reach. Even as vast new energy reserves are being discovered, such as the Saudi-topping Bakken formation in North Dakota, domestic production is declining. Mr. Obama has banned new domestic offshore drilling while subsidizing it in Brazil. This week, Shell Oil Company announced that it is abandoning Arctic Ocean drilling plans because the Environmental Protection Agency is blocking key permits, sacrificing 27 billion barrels of oil. Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected a reduction in total U.S. crude oil production of 110,000 barrels per day in 2011 and a further 130,000 barrels per day in 2012. Given the current profitability of oil production, the blame can only rest with the White House.