White House searches for scapegoats to take the blame for rising gas prices
There’s been a steady drum beat in the press and from political circles for someone – the president, Congress, somebody – to do something about rising gas prices.
Here’s a hard truth that we tend to forget all too easily: politicians have only limited influence over the day-to-day price of goods or services. Government policies can have broad effects over time — distorting markets through subsides, taxes, tariffs, or regulation. But changing the pump prices of gas tomorrow? Not really.
The White House admits as much – “’There are limitations to what any president can do, as it relates to gas prices,’ press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters” – but that doesn’t stop politicians from looking busy. Or worse, actually trying to do something:
The White House said it directed the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible price gouging and the National Security Council to urge countries represented by OPEC+ to increase production.
Good luck with the snipe hunt, folks. But here’s the bigger issue:
Oil prices are the byproduct of market forces of supply and demand, and domestic energy advocates say the White House’s own environmental policies have served to limit the supply of oil and natural gas coming into the market.
At the start of the year, President Joe Biden cancelled a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline and paused drilling activity on federal lands and waters. A judge overturned the drilling ban and ordered the Biden administration to restart leasing activity. The administration is appealing the decision.
The federal government will resume leasing land for oil and gas drilling next year, after the Bureau of Land Management cancelled planned quarterly lease auctions in 2021 to comply with the White House’s executive order calling for a comprehensive review of the program.
The Bureau of Ocean Management will lease water in the Gulf of Mexico this year, a sale rescheduled after the federal judge’s injunction.
Louisiana is one of 13 energy-producing states that are suing the administration over the drilling ban. State Solicitor General Liz Murrill says the White House should “take the handcuffs” off energy producers if it wants to improve the situation sooner.
Looking for price gougers is one, very silly, thing. Looking closely at one’s regulatory and policy decisions that lead to government-induced shortages? That takes a kind of political courage and self-awareness that is alien to official Washington.