Why High Gas Prices Are So Bad For the GOP

Lately, I've been struggling to collect my thoughts on high fuel costs. The most obvious thought, the one that crosses my mind every time I spend upwards of $40 to fill up the tank of my relatively fuel-efficient Honda Accord, is that high gas prices suck. It's a defacto pay cut. But there are other thoughts. One of them, not uncommon among progressives, is that perhaps such high gas prices are a good thing, finally providing the catalyst for change that we've so long needed to get people thinking about greater fuel efficiency standards and maybe even alternative energy sources.

No matter how you read the current situation, it's definitely not good for the Republicans, regardless of whether or not the Democrats have all of the answers. In fact, there may not be any "answers" in this case. Gas prices seem poised to stay high for some time to come. While there is certainly room for temporary fixes -- increased federal incentives for fuel efficient vehicles, a temporary gas tax holiday, an increased commitment to providing alternatives to single occupancy vehicle traffic, etc. -- the fact of the matter is that, unless we start talking seriously about alternative fuels and massive shifts in energy and transportation policy, these are well-intentioned band-aids. Mind you, I think it's important to stem the middle-class bleeding on fuel costs in the short term, but there's a big difference between long-term solutions and short-term fixes.

Something I read tonight really helped me start putting things in perspective. Even though Democrats may not have all of the answers, it truly is important to strenuously point out that at the heart of the problem sits the Republican Party and the Presidency of George W. Bush. David Roberts of the Gristmill blog makes the case that Bush's "most grievous blow to this country" has been "his utter failure to prepare the U.S. for the 21st century energy situation."

The best thing Bush could have done the minute he came into office is focus like a laser on reducing demand: tax carbon, tax gas, raise fuel-efficiency standards, plough money into any and every alternative fuel. Reduced demand would help hold prices down in the short term and help the country prepare for the day when they inevitably rise. Fucking around with supply -- drilling in ANWR, off the coasts, in the West, and everywhere the hell else, fiddling with refinery permits, removing environmental standards on gas -- is at best a delaying tactic.

He's catching on, but only nominally, too little too late. A couple of shocks -- another war, another terrorist attack, a natural disaster that knocks out a significant supplier -- and we could teeter into geopolitical chaos. We no longer have the moral, economic, or military muscle to keep a lid on it.

The Republicans' solutions have continued to focus on the supply-side, promoting more drilling in sensitive areas and overturning environmental standards. This is incredibly stupid both in terms of policy and politics, continuing to reinforce that they are simply not equipped to deal with the realities of $3-plus per gallon fuel. Everyone seems to know that high gas prices are bad for the GOP, but not enough people seem to be talking about the real reasons why. It's not just about gas taking a bigger bite of people's paychecks, though that's certainly important. It's not even just about the fact that the crisis at hand has been exacerbated by the ruling Republican Party, if not worse. George W. Bush and the Republican Party, despite mounting evidence that this situation was on the horizon, were simply too weak to do anything to prepare the American people for it. This is why is high gas prices are so terrible for the Republicans. It's not just something happening on their watch -- it's a direct by-product of their utter failure to lead.

Tags: Democrats, energy policy, gas prices, Republicans (all tags)

Comments

12 Comments

Re: Why High Gas Prices Are So Bad For the GOP

First they say we are addicted to oil and we have to get off of oil.

Then they say we need to drill in ANWAR and off the continental shelf.

I say that is just giving the junkie another fix.

Toady

by toady 2006-05-02 12:36AM | 0 recs
Are you Mark Shields and Not Scott Shields?

You make three excellent points - that the GOP was weak and high gas prices show exactly why the GOP couldn't lead (everyone knows the oil was running out and is running out!)  ,  that a great solution to the problem was to reduce demand (soooo many bush republicans drive these fat ass 'ZERO RESALE VALUE' SUV's all over the place) , and that the money you spend on gas goes directly out of your pocket every day.

But you prove that you're only scott shields and not mark shields when you miss the important fact that the point of maximum extraction was passed last february.

The oil fields that we depend upon are now depleted. There is a center point to an oil field,  called the point of maximum extraction. This is the point at which the most oil will be taken from the well, with the least amount of effort. Not unlike oil sands (in canada) which are an absolute bear to get the oil from, the rest of the oil is in the cracks and crevices of the well and won't come out unless the driller gives sixty percent more effort.

And, there is no turning back: once that oil is gone, all the oil is gone.

Professor Plott of Caltech did an excellent study on what happens next: extreme market volatility - despite the fact that the futures are going to be worth zero - the market starts trading wildly.

The reason, scott, forgetting about all of that in your post is such a serious error is that the first place the greasy GOP will run and hide to is the axiom that "market prices are something no one can control". They'll say its an international market and that the real reason why oil went up so high is because the market drove it up so high.

But an American professor finds in 1989 that this will be the behaviour of the markets in about 10 years or so. This is easy to discover - it was on a NOVA show (the one about chaos).

If you take the angle that this could have been predicted if we were a technological and scientific power (instead of being run by dumb ass texas oil men) we'd be able to make the point that not only are we still not solving the problem but we've also got global instability coming in less than 10 years as a result of it. In other words, that they effed up before, but worse still - they effed up things to come - the permanent ramification of ignoring the obvious fact that the point of maximum extraction passed in february. That was the chaos point. The point at which we could predict everything would go wild. We could not predict up or down - but we knew it would go wild.

THEN you could easily start in with the fact that the major oil companies are all launching multibillion dollar campaigns to show they're beneficiently pursuing energy research....

That they are NOT doing anything of the kind....

That Dependence and absurd consumption came from George W. Bush's treating LIGHT TRUCKS as UTILITY VEHICLES and making them exempt from Gas Mileage requirements...

and Then, point out that Bush is trying to do this again, to solve the problem.

That the oil companies shut down refineries so that the prices would be even more volatile, to th e point that here in Atlanta, prices at one point shot up to 5.00 a gallon, making a trip around town cost 100.000

And then posting record profits after they did.

Finally the global scope of the problem, a clear view: Bush and the GOP had an opportunity to lead the entire world. Instead, SUVs get sold in China of all places, and the pollution mounts -

One final point: global weather was found, only about 10 years ago - to be able to turn around on a dime. Literally the entire weather pattern of the world can change in less than 15 years - this is a major discovery, and one that was found in the arctic ice record and not just theoretically proven on paper in some meteorologists lab.

So, we have this sword of damocles over our head now, each and every one of us - and we see it clearly here, and now.

bush doesn't.

its a massive, pervasive failure of leadership. Not just something that hurts the GOP but every american everywhere, children, man and wife.

And it doesn't just stop at the GOP - because we still have the power to do something about it. Russ feingold had the right idea.

You see, politics it seems, in america, is too orderly and perfect to be effective.

Everyone who is involved in politics seems to be gloating about, oh gee, here come the midterms - here come the democrats.

But the Democrats still don't stand for anything. No real reform. Just blocking the GOP. Hurting the GOP.

In this case, what hurts the GOP hurts us all.  Suppose the Democrats stand up and instead of treating us like whores, really go for the new manhattan project - and whats more - actually propose paying for it by shutting down the war in iraq -

I mean, it would be great to win, but what would America really win over there?

What if we said - geez. You know. the middle east is all aobut oil. We threw out Saddam. You do the rest, even if it means lots and lots of terrorism over there.. ?

And then, you might also have made the

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-05-02 02:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Why High Gas Prices Are So Bad For the GOP

sorry finish the thought ...

And then , you might have also made the final point that democrats and republicans both treat common americans as if they don't know what they're doing - and have continually ignored the fact that the internet has, in effect - created a labour union with over 200  million members. They both still seem to believe that they can eat mango puree with lobbyists on k street and forget about actually releasing some kind of new contract with America that actually means anything.

Its a dog and pony show, scott - thats the worst part of it. Cheney sits down with the oil company, writes the policy that gets a few guys rich and the rest of us reamed.

And finally it shows up every day, in front of you - what is really going on.

Tell them that every single day you see that huge price at the pump, you can just remember dick cheney's crooked smile at the energy meeting...

the bad guys have won, scott. Americans deserve to be called up as minutemen to throw them out.

its not just the midterms, its right now .
Americans will cheer someone who really champions these issues.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-05-02 02:30AM | 0 recs
High Gas Prices

The trouble with gasoline prices is not that they're high, it's that they're so volatile.  When consumers are, by and large, myopic about this sort of thing, it's the worst possible situation -- they buy SUVs when the price is low and suffer when it spikes.  This sort of high gas price doesn't do much to encourage conservation; how many people have a satisfactory alternative to get to work TODAY?  (Technically, gasoline is highly price inelastic in the short run.)

Gasoline prices should rise to reflect long-term supply and demand constraints.  If the price would go up and stay up, conservation would be encouraged.  It would be better, it seems to me, to do it by an excise tax (yes, I know such taxes are distortionary in a perfect world -- see Lipsey and Lancaster, "The General Theory of the Second Best," 1956) than to hand our money over to the well owners, but that's government finance, and we're talking about conservation.

So -- stable high prices are mostly good policy, short term volatility is bad policy.  Yes, Bush wants to rape ANWR and accelerate global warming.  But the central theme of Bush's presidency, war in the Middle East, is worse.  It's tailor-made to cause precisely the kind of short term volatility we're seeing.  (His inept response to Katrina, knocking out the Louisiana refineries, didn't help, either.)  I don't know for sure, but I can't help but notice that the current run-up in price seems to be accompanying Bush's nuclear saber rattling at Iran.  War in Iran would be disruptive enough, but nukes?  What if they contaminate the Iranian oil fields? Savvy speculators are preparing for just such contingencies.

by drlimerick 2006-05-02 03:47AM | 0 recs
High Gas Prices, part II

(Unrelated to my previous post)

My doppelganger, Professor Pollkatz, has been arguing for years that Bush's popularity is closely tied to gas prices.  ( http://www.pollkatz.homestead.com/files/ NEWBUSHINDEX_28670_image001.gif )

Lots of people have written to say, correlation doesn't imply causation, meathead!  Sure, but hear me out.  Gasoline prices are one of the only economic indicators that individuals can monitor on a daily basis -- hell, the data is posted in big letters on every street corner.  As gas prices soar, they blame the oil companies, and the president.  

(This is the down side of being president; you can take credit for the non-recurrence of 9/11 despite your boneheaded security policies, but you have to take the blame for something that's mostly governed by fundamental stuff like supply and demand (although Bush's Middle East policy -- war -- makes things much worse, by threatening chaos in the oil fields). See under Carter, James Earl)

If I'm right, then we have a peculiar political problem.  To the extent the Saudis, et al. can ameliorate gas prices, they could well have our election in their pocket.  And, as we know, the houses of Bush and Saud are joined at the hip.  Contingency plan?  What do we do if gasoline prices mysteriously fall precipitously in September?

by drlimerick 2006-05-02 03:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Why High Gas Prices Are So Bad For the GOP

I respectfully disagree with you.  

I think high gas prices are good for Republicans today.  As is true with most people, I believe gas prices are significantly artificially high.  I think it is fair to predict that gas prices are going to drop SUBSTANTIALLY in about September, and the Republicans will take credit.  They will be portrayed as heroes.  And their supporters will have a LOT of money to spread around the Republican universe in the form of campaign contributions.  

Gas prices today have nothing to do with gas prices in November.  They have to be high today so that they can be reduced later to a reasonable price.  They obviously couldn't reduce prices in September to a reasonable and fair price if the price today were reasonable and fair.  

The electorate is being manipulated.  

That's my prediction.  

by bismarckdem 2006-05-02 04:08AM | 0 recs
Only one way that can happen

And that's if Bush backs down from Iran.

Do you seriously see Bush backing off the Iranians?

by jcjcjc 2006-05-02 06:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Only one way that can happen

Gas prices will be down in September/October, regardless of what happens in Iran, IMHO.  OPEC nation leaders and guys with $400 million chins want/need Republicans to be in power.  

by bismarckdem 2006-05-02 09:25AM | 0 recs
Giving OPEC too much credit

Mind you, the OPEC leaders are the political descendants of folks bright enough to conduct a series of disturbingly failed wars against Israel without ever really getting the point.

I'm not sold that the Iranians give a damn who is in power.  Likewise, OPEC is over the hump of its peak output.  They're not in much position to help even if they wanted to.

When gas prices come down it will be with the arrival of the commodification of ethanol alongside an installed base of refineries making ethanol mixes and perhaps local gas stations pumping pure ethanol.

If you want cheap prices, we have capitlism for that.  Competition does wonders, as Big Oil is going to find out over the next decade.

by jcjcjc 2006-05-03 09:15AM | 0 recs
What about the weak dollar?

Given that the dollar has lost 1/3 of its parity against major currencies, does it strike anyone else that even with current troubles, oil would be trading around $50-60 with a stronger greenback?

No one ever points out the role poor GOP fiscal policies have played in raising the price of oil.

by jcjcjc 2006-05-02 06:15AM | 0 recs
Energy Independence

Great post.  Energy independence is a great issue for the Dems and one I think we need to be talking about a lot more.  Brazil has become energy independent by creating ethanol from sugar cane which apparently is a much more efficient way to make it than using corn.  If Brazil can do it, why can't the US???  We can but there is a lack of will from our government because Bush and Cheney are oilmen.  Their buddies are the head of ExxonMobil, Sunoco, Chevron, etc and I don't think they are the least bit upset about the current turn of events.

The Dems also need to make the link b/w Middle East oil and terrorism.  The best way to reduce the threat of terrorism is to shut off their funding.  Let's face facts - terrorists get large amounts of funding from countries whose economies are based on exporting oil to the US.  It goes without saying if we reduce the amount of oil we purchase we reduce the amount of money going into these countries pockets and reduce the money going to terrorists.  Plus, if we no longer rely on middle east oil, we will not need to continue to need to prop up brutal regimes like Saudi Arabia, another source of resentment toward the US.

Energy independence is a great opportunity for the Dems to have a positive message that appeals to Americas idealism.  I know we are a cynical lot these days but it is not a coincidence that two of the most popular and effective politicians of the last 25 years - Reagan and Clinton - appealed to Americas can do sense of optimism.  

I thought one of the best lines from the 2004 campaign came from Dick Gephardt where he said if we can put a man on the moon in less than 10 years we can make the US energy independent in 10 years.  It didn't resonate because it came from well ... Dick Gephardt, but it is a good and positive message.  2004 may have been a little early for that message but 2006 is clearly the right time for it.  We need to grab this issue and run with it.  It is a winner.

by John Mills 2006-05-02 06:26AM | 0 recs
This will lower gas prices

Many say we will see $3.50/gal this summer.  If you factor in Iran, who knows how high it could go. Everyone knows America MUST get off the oil.  After September 11, 2001 I expected our President to call on Americans to GET OFF THE OIL.  I was expecting a speech like the one JFK gave that motivated us to reach for the moon. As you know, this never happened.  Eventually I realized that the only way this is going to happen is for us to do it ourselves.  To that end I created this idea and have been trying to make it a reality..

The EPA is offering a research grant opportunity that I believe is a perfect fit for this idea.  I have sent an e-mail to a hand picked list of university professors who have experience with government research projects.  I'm looking to form a research team to apply for the EPA grant, conduct a social-economic experiment and surveys to determine to what extent the American public will support it, project the economic potential of WPH, and identify logistical, social and political obstacles as well as opportunities.

All government grants are awarded based on merit of the proposed research.  I believe WPH has merit but your help is needed to verify it. You can help by posting your feedback.  Let the professors and the EPA know what you think about WPH.  Do you think this idea is worth pursuing? We need to know if Americans will support a plan like this.

Do you have any ideas to improve the plan?

Share any and all of your thoughts.

Tell your friends and family about this Blog post and ask them to post their thoughts on WPH

http://wepayhalf.org

Thank you

Craig

by WePayHalf 2006-05-02 11:51AM | 0 recs

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