With Americans’ eyes rolling back in their heads along with the spinning counters at the gasoline pump, Republicans and Democrats traded charges today over who is to blame for the spiking cost of gas, and what, if anything, can be done about it.
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney engaged the debate on Fox News Sunday, claiming that President Obama embraced rising energy costs as a candidate, and calling on him to fire the heads of the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency, among others, for policies that have advanced that goal.
Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod told CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer that promoting increased drilling as a way to “magically” cause the price of a gallon of gas to drop to $2.50 a gallon, as Newt Gingrich has suggested, is “not oil talk, but snake oil talk.”
Republicans clearly view Obama as highly vulnerable on the issue of rising gas prices, a position borne out by polls showing the president’s approval rating dropping as prices have spiked. The administration’s decision to block the Keystone Oil Pipeline, and the bankruptcy of solar panel maker Solyndra after receiving $527 million in federal money, have also given Republicans potent weapons to attack Obama’s energy policy.
“The reality is I’m seeing more and more people affected by the pain” of rising gas prices, said Romney, recounting the story of women in particular who are struggling to drive their kids to school and soccer practice because of high prices at the pump, and of a teacher who decided to stay unemployed because it was too expensive to drive back and forth to work. “So gas prices are hurting American families, and that pain is the result of an energy policy that turned down the Keystone pipeline and put more than $500 million into Solyndra,” Romney said. “And it’s not working.”
Axelrod criticized Congressional Republicans for forcing a decision on the Keystone Pipeline as part of election-year politics, before the State Department could conduct a thorough review. The administration has pursued an “all of the above” energy strategy, he argued, that included a 12-percent increase in domestic oil production, the first increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars in three decades, and a doubling in the use of renewable energies such as wind and solar.
“If we don't do all of those things we're going to be right back here again every election season, and politicians like Mr. Romney will pander and the poor American consumer will be left in the same position,” Axelrod said.
Of course, the administration’s pandering argument would be more convincing if Obama hadn’t engaged in the same tactic as a candidate in 2008, criticizing George W. Bush for the fact that gas prices had more than doubled during his eight years in office.
Meanwhile, the inconvenient truth that oil is a global commodity whose price is not entirely dictated by U.S. energy policy is one you will rarely hear in campaign ads.