As Southwest Florida businesses struggle with the rising price of gasoline, it is only natural to wonder why fuel prices are going up.
Some people would suggest supply and demand is at play. They’d point out the world’s appetite for gasoline is expanding faster than the capacity to produce it.
They’d go on to say turmoil in the Middle East is causing the price of oil to go up.
Then they’d talk about refineries switching to summer blends, reducing the amount of gasoline available right now, further exacerbating the problem.
Of course, those people would be wrong.
Because as we learned in 2006 and 2008, the main factor in the price of gasoline is the occupant of the White House.
Under the headline, “Democrats blame Bush for higher gas prices,” came this April, 2008 account of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s radio address on behalf of the Democratic Party.
“This week, the price of oil and gasoline both hit new record highs – almost $120 for a barrel of oil and more than $3.50 a gallon for gas. These out-of-control prices mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans are driving to work and spending too much of their day just earning back the cost of their commute. The American people deserve to know why this happened,” Lautenberg said.
He went on, “That’s why we need you to help us keep the pressure on President Bush and the Republicans who are intent on rewarding their oil friends while they stick the American people with the bill. The stakes are too high for that kind of cronyism and cynical politics. Democrats reject them. And together, I know we can solve this crisis.”
In 2006, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida delivered a similar address on behalf of the Democrats. The Associated Press gave this account: “Nelson said Bush acknowledges the problem but refuses to enact policies to address the issue. ‘The administration’s emphasis is on drilling, a strategy many experts say won’t make a dent in the U.S. oil problem,’ he said.”
In August of 2008, then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN, “The price of oil is ... attributed to two oil men in the White House and their protectors in the United States Senate.”
On Aug. 21, 2006, President George Bush was asked at a press conference: “What do you say to people who are losing patience with gas prices at $3 a gallon? And how much of a political price do you think you’re paying for that, right now?”
If the Democrats’ and the media’s focus on Bush as the cause of high gasoline prices was correct, then all the criticism must have gotten to him.
By January of 2009, when he left office, he had dialed the price back to $1.83 a gallon.
President Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate took office that month and damned if they didn’t start ratcheting the price right back up.
In June of 2009, the national average price was $2.64 per gallon. In May of 2010 it was $2.94. Now it is at $3.38.
Yet the blame for higher gas prices doesn’t seem to accrue to the Democrats the way it did to Bush, even though Obama has implemented policies _ a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, for example _ that by definition serve to reduce the supply of oil.
The Media Research Center, a conservative organization committed to pointing out media bias, analyzed network news reports from February 2008 and February 2011, periods when gasoline prices showed similar upward trajectories.
The major news outlets carried 63 stories about rising gas prices in the 2008 period. They carried 24 in 2011.
In 2008, those reports mentioned “Bush,” “the president” or “government” 15 times. In 2011, Obama and the government were mentioned once.
In reality, supply and demand are the driving factors in the price of gasoline and any other commodity exchanged on the open market.
Government policy can influence supply and/or demand but no president sits in the Oval Office turning a knob to set the price of gasoline.
It’s time the media and politicians get that through their heads once and for all.
Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten