Have no fear about those rising gas prices! Barack Obama has decided to launch yet another task force, joining his deficit commission and his other deficit commission, to get to the bottom of why gas prices have shot upward so rapidly in late 2010 and early 2011. Obama appears to have an idea of what his new gas-price task force will uncover:
President Barack Obama said Thursday that the Justice Department will try to “root out” cases of fraud or manipulation in oil markets, even as Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a variety of legal reasons may be behind gasoline’s surge to $4 a gallon.
“We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain,” Obama said at a town-hall style meeting at a renewable energy plant in Reno. …
Obama, decrying such levels as yet another hardship “at a time when things were already pretty tough,” said Holder was forming the Financial Fraud Enforcement Working Group.
The task force will focus some of its investigation on “the role of traders and speculators” in the oil-price surge Obama said. The group will include several Cabinet department officials, federal regulators and the National Association of Attorneys General.
Sounds like the White House thinks the problem centers on waste, fraud, and abuse. Perhaps President Obama should heed the words of a Beltway insider who warned Americans that this kind of talk was usually hooey, just a dodge to avoid facing the tough choices in front of us. In fact, here’s a quote:
“… [P]oliticians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse – you’ll hear that phrase a lot. “We just need to eliminate waste and abuse!””
Who said that? Why, none other than … Barack Obama. Nine days ago.
As the Washington Examiner noted earlier this week in an editorial, the problem isn’t waste, fraud, or abuse. The fragility of gas prices are a consequence of American policy that discourages domestic production (and refining) of American crude. This administration in particular has been more hostile than most to the domestic oil industry:
The same president who once advised Americans to inflate their tires to beat high gas prices, and who recently told a father of 10 that he should cram his family into a hybrid minivan that doesn’t yet exist, has had his boot on the neck of Gulf of Mexico oil production for nearly a year now, to paraphrase his secretary of the interior. Obama’s intervention began with a lie when White House officials falsely represented to the public and to a court that scientists had approved their blanket drilling moratorium after the BP oil spill. The administration then defied a federal court by replacing its original moratorium, which had been struck down, with a substantively identical second moratorium. …
At today’s prices, the Obama-induced loss of production represents $40 million per day in lost oil revenue. Spread over a full year, that comes to $14.6 billion that could be supporting thousands of sustainable, good-paying American jobs at no cost to the taxpayer. That is a much better deal than Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package, which appears to have added far more to the national debt than it ever will to national employment. It seems clear that ideological and not economic considerations are at work in this administration’s energy policy. The same politician who once said that energy prices would “necessarily skyrocket” under his plan seems less intent on job creation or energy security than he is on putting oil producers in a regulatory straitjacket and browbeating Americans into accepting the lower standard of living that inevitably results from energy scarcity.
In other words, we do have a problem with waste, abuse, and fraud. We have wasted years in developing our own rich resources, an effort that not only would insulate us from the political shocks from political turmoil in oil-producing regimes but would also employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in high-paying jobs. This administration in particular has abused its power, even to the extent of defying a court order, to keep American production from getting more domestic oil to the country and lowering prices through the hardly-mysterious mechanism of supply and demand. And the fraud involved is the idea that we elected a brilliant President — instead of one who apparently needs an entire task force to understand the most basic concepts of free markets and pricing.