Friday, June 1, 2012

A Sticky Situation

Hey, remember a few months ago, when this image and others like it were making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter and other sociopathic media?

The popular backstory was that patriotic, conservative, and not at all moronic Americans were spontaneously leaving clever notes at gas pumps to remind the rest of us that gas prices had doubled under President Obama, whose fault it totally was on account of being born in Kenya. It was the kind of grass-roots activism that has been behind every great movement in our nation's history. Like the civil rights movement. The Tea Party movement.

The "no one ever went broke underestimating the gullibility of the American people"
But even though the grass-roots aspect of the sticky-note campaign is totally bogus, the assertion that President Obama is responsible for spiking gasoline prices is...wait, let me check something.

Please stand by.

OK, I'm back. The sticky note's information is correct: the average price of gasoline in the United States was approximately $1.78 a gallon on the day President Obama was inaugurated in 2009. And crude oil was trading at - hold on to your nozzles - a little over $32 a barrel. Whoa. By the time Republican superPAC American Crossroads started running TV spots blaming the President for spiraling crude oil and gasoline prices this Spring, oil was trading over $100 a barrel, and the average gas price was at a 12-month high.

Well, that sucks. And it's all clearly the current administration's fault. Because when George W. Bush was still President, the prices were...wait, let me check something.

Please enjoy this amusing chicken.
OK. When George W. Bush was still President, the prices were way freaking higher. For reals.

Source: historical price charts. 
So yeah, gas was a wallet-friendly $1.78 a gallon when Barack Obama took office, but only after falling from a record-high $3.94 just six months earlier under George W. Bush. You may have heard news reports in March and April stating that the highest-ever prices had been achieved in either or both of those months, but those prices weren't adjusted for inflation. Here's what the inflation-adjusted numbers look like over the last 35 years (that's three Republican Presidents and three Democrats, if you're keeping track):

Glad I wasn't driving in 1980.
Source: US Energy Information Administration via

And lest we forget what prices looked like during the whole of President Bush's second term:

Why, both crude oil and average gas prices in May 2004 were nearly identical to those in January 2008 when President Obama took office. What on Earth happened during Mr. Bush's administration to cause crude prices to more than quadruple?

Well, a lot of things happened. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The housing bubble. A huge run-up in global markets that preceded and contributed to the worldwide economic crisis starting in late 2007. The premiere of "Lost." All kinds of things happened in the world, because that's the way it goes. President Bush was directly or indirectly responsible for some of them, contributed to others, and had absolutely nothing to do with "Lost." Did some of those things in turn contribute to the oil-and-gas roller coaster ride of the early 21st century? Undoubtedly. Does that mean anything President Bush did directly caused the price of a gallon of gas to be what it was at any point in time during his administration?

Wow, that would be a stretch, wouldn't it?

So let's be fair. Because here's what crude and refined gasoline prices have been doing for the last three months, since people starting getting all huffy:

If you're going to blame the President for high prices, then give him credit for the current decline, too. Or don't, because that would be crazy. Neither he nor any President controls energy prices that way. In reality, unregulated speculation is behind most of the outrageous fluctuation in crude oil futures, and gas prices are influenced by demand, consumer confidence, and greedy oil refiners who think they can piggyback retail prices on artificial spikes in the commodity markets.

If our current Democratic President would exercise his lefty pinko big-government penchant for regulating those entities more strictly, prices probably would continue to go down. On the other hand, if the Republicans in Congress had their way, there would be even less regulation, and prices could rise all to hell and gone. In which case the sticky-note-leavers would have no choice but to protest against their own party.

Sorry if I blew your mind there.
I don't like paying an arm and a leg for gas. It sucks to be happy that the price at my local fill-em-up station has fallen to "only" $3.19 recently. I would happily go back to paying $1.78. Hell, even $2.78 would make me do a happy chicken dance.

But I don't think voting for President Obama or Wannabe-President Romney is going to make that happen. So everyone who is trying to use gas prices as a for-or-against argument during the current campaign...write it on a sticky note and throw it the hell away.

Yeah, and that too.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.