Sticker shock at the pump

Obama and Demo­cratic Se­nate push for higher gas prices

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

Amer­i­cans to­day are pay­ing an av­er­age $3.92 for a gal­lon of reg­u­lar gas. The pain of watc­ing the num­ber at the pump tick ever higher doesn’t seem to be shared by Pres­i­dent Obama or his al­lies on Capi­tol Hill. Democrats see the sky-high cost of petrol as a way to force other peo­ple to get around by public trans­porta­tion and elec­tric cars. Thank­fully, they don’t have the sup­port to get away with it.

Just be­fore a Thurs­day vote in the Se­nate to hike taxes on oil com­pa­nies, the pres­i­dent ap­peared in the Rose Gar­den to make his case. “To­day mem­bers of Congress have a sim­ple choice to make,” said Mr. Obama. “They can stand with the big oil com­pa­nies, or they can stand with the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” He claimed en­ergy man­u­fac­tur­ers would ab­sorb the new taxes rather than pass­ing them on to the con­sumer in the form of higher gas prices.

Ap­par­ently, Mr. Obama’s speech wasn’t very in­spir­ing. Four Se­nate Democrats joined all Repub­li­cans in op­pos­ing the pro­ce­dural mea­sure, leav­ing it nine votes short of the 60 needed. Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell be­lieved the Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled Se­nate was wast­ing pre­cious time car­ry­ing water for Mr. Obama. “Some­how they thought that do­ing this would set up some kind of a po­lit­i­cal win for them,” the Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can said on the floor. “I can’t imag­ine any­body giv­ing them any high-fives for not low­er­ing the price of gas.”

The pres­i­dent wants to raise taxes on oil com­pa­nies by about $40 bil­lion over 10 years. Se­nate Democrats were more mod­est, lim­it­ing the tax hike to just the big­gest com­pa­nies for about $26 bil­lion over 10 years. Even if Democrats were in­ter­ested in us­ing the new rev­enue to re­duce the deficit, this tax would barely cover five hours of gov­ern­ment spend­ing a year. In­stead, their bill used the ma­jor­ity of the money to in­crease the sub­si­dies to their po­lit­i­cal al­lies in the in­ter­mit­tent en­ergy busi­ness, mak­ing this a mere re­dis­tri­bu­tion of cor­po­rate wealth.

As Mr. Obama ex­plained, “We should be us­ing that money to dou­ble down on in­vest­ments in clean-en­ergy tech­nolo­gies that have never been more promis­ing. In­vest­ments in wind power and so­lar power and bio­fu­els, in­vest­ments in fuel-ef­fi­cient cars and trucks and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient homes and build­ings.”

These com­pa­nies al­ready en­joy tens of bil­lions in tax breaks, loans and di­rect cash in­fu­sions. With­out driv­ing up the price of gas, no­body is go­ing to want to ride Mr. Obama’s beloved “high-speed” trains or buy his gov­ern­ment-crafted Chevy Volts. This at­tack on “big oil” is noth­ing more than elec­tion-year po­lit­i­cal pan­der­ing.

For a man fight­ing his last cam­paign, Mr. Obama is mak­ing a mis­take by plac­ing him­self on the wrong side of public opin­ion. Strug­gling fam­i­lies care more about af­ford­able trans­porta­tion than achiev­ing eco-cred­i­bil­ity by us­ing the im­prac­ti­cal — but trendy — al­ter­na­tives cooked up by Mr. Obama’s fi­nan­cial back­ers. Vot­ers should keep in mind what Mr. Obama will do to oil prices if he wins a sec­ond term and gains more flex­i­bil­ity.

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