Tuesday, March 15, 2011
At Friday's news conference, President Obama tried to connect with the common man coping with rising gasoline prices. Instead, the president left little doubt that he is clueless about cars.
"You may want to buy a fuel-efficient car," quoth Obama, "but you may not be able to afford it. And so you're stuck with the old clunker that's getting 8 or 10 miles a gallon."
Eight to 10 mpg? Which clunker would that be? I wondered. An old Hummer? Your father's father's Oldsmobile? A late-model Lamborghini? It takes a luxury brand, a boat-sized machine and/or a few decades to approach those dismal mileage numbers.
An 11-year-old Pontiac minivan, for example, gets 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway.
You have to go back to the Carter administration years or earlier to find Obama's idea of a gas-guzzling family car -- and even that vehicle would have been a van, light truck/SUV or luxury model. And yet he is behind the wheel of Washington's energy policy.
Can you blame me for believing Team Obama was pushing the pedal to the metal in a rush for higher gas prices?
On March 11, Obamaland pushed back against the perception that its anti-drilling policies -- implemented in the wake of the April 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon blowout -- have contributed to high prices at the pump. The cost of filling one's gas tank has risen uncomfortably close to $4 per gallon in the Bay Area of California.
The administration rightly notes that domestic oil and natural gas production have increased since 2008, while imports have decreased.
OK, but: Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute told Environment & Energy Publishing, "The increased production levels in 2010 are a credit to the vision of previous administrations." Milito credited the 1995 Deepwater Royalty Relief Act signed by Bill Clinton and passed by a GOP-controlled Congress.
To his credit, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had supported offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. But after an oil platform explosion left 11 workers dead and coated beaches with oil, he reacted. Then Salazar overreacted.
Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana saw their home states suffer first from the oil spill, and then the oil-job shutoff. Landrieu came to vigorously oppose what had evolved into a de facto moratorium on drilling permits.
Clinton himself lamented "ridiculous delays in permitting when our economy doesn't need it." The administration didn't issue a permit since the blowout until last month -- and then only after a federal judge's prompting.
Not to mention the steady job-killing creep of climbing gasoline prices.
There always has been a corner of Obamaland that doesn't appreciate the job-creating properties of cheap fuel. Now-Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Wall Street Journal, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Chu said that in September 2008 -- and still Obama picked him for the slot.
Then again, if you think there are a lot of Americans cruising Main Street in gas-guzzling monstrosities, you probably wouldn't even notice the high price of gasoline -- until your approval ratings started to approach, well, Jimmy Carter levels.
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See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders
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