Yes, of course, presidents have no direct control over gas prices. But the American people know something about this president and his disdain for oil. The "fuel of the past," he contemptuously calls it. To the American worker who doesn't commute by government motorcade and is getting fleeced every week at the pump, oil seems very much a fuel of the present -- and of the foreseeable future.
President Obama incessantly claims energy open-mindedness, insisting that his policy is "all of the above." Except, of course, for drilling
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• off the mid-Atlantic coast (as Virginia, for example, wants),
• off the Florida Gulf Coast (instead, the Castro brothers will drill near there),
• in the broader Gulf of Mexico (where drilling in 2012 is expected to drop 30 percent below pre-moratorium forecasts),
• in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (more than half the size of England, the drilling footprint being the size of Dulles Airport),
• on federal lands in the Rockies (where leases are down 70 percent since Obama took office).
But the event that drove home the extent of Obama's antipathy to nearby, abundant, available oil was his veto of the Keystone pipeline. It gave the game away because the case for Keystone is so obvious and overwhelming. Vetoing it gratuitously prolongs our dependence on outside powers, kills thousands of shovel-ready jobs, forfeits a major strategic resource to China, damages relations with our closest ally, and sends billions of oil dollars to Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and already obscenely wealthy sheiks.
Obama boasts that on his watch production is up and imports down. True, but truly deceptive. These increases have occurred in spite of his restrictive policies. They are the result of Clinton- and Bush-era permitting. This has been accompanied by a gold rush of natural gas production resulting from new fracking technology that has nothing at all to do with Obama.
"The American people aren't stupid," said Obama (Feb. 23), mocking "Drill, baby, drill." The "only solution," he averred in yet another major energy speech last week, is that "we start using less, that lowers the demand, prices come down." Yet five paragraphs later he claimed that regardless of "how much oil we produce at home ... that's not going to set the price of gas worldwide."
So: Decreasing U.S. demand will lower oil prices, but increasing U.S. supply will not? This is ridiculous. Either both do or neither does. Does Obama read his own speeches?
Obama says of drilling: "That's not a plan." Of course it's a plan. We import nearly half of our oil, thereby exporting enormous amounts of U.S. wealth. Almost 60 percent of our trade deficit -- $332 billion out of $560 billion -- is shipped overseas to buy crude.
Drill here and you stanch the hemorrhage. You keep those dollars within the U.S. economy, repatriating not just wealth but jobs, and denying them to foreign unfriendlies. Drilling is the single most important thing we can do to spur growth at home while strengthening our hand abroad.
Instead, Obama offers what he fancies to be the fuels of the future. You would think that he'd be a tad more modest today about his powers of divination after the Solyndra bankruptcy, the collapse of government-subsidized Ener1 (past makers of the batteries of the future) and GM's suspension of production -- for lack of demand -- of another federally dictated confection, the flammable Chevy Volt.
Deterred? Hardly. Our undaunted seer of the energy future has come up with his own miracle fuel: algae. Yes, green slime, upon which Steven Chu's Energy Department will be sprinkling yet another $14 million of taxpayer money.
This is the very same Dr. Chu who famously said in 2008 that he wanted U.S. gas prices to rise to European levels of $8-$10 a gallon -- and who Tuesday, eight months before Election Day, publicly recanted before Congress, Galileo-style.
Who do they think they're fooling? An oil crisis looms, prices are spiking -- and our president is extolling algae. After Solyndra, Keystone and promises of seaweed in their gas tanks, Americans sense a president so ideologically antipathetic to fossil fuels -- which we possess in staggering abundance -- that he is utterly unserious about the real world of oil in which the rest of us live.
High gasoline prices are a major political problem for Obama. They are not just a pain at the pump, however. They are a constant reminder of three years of a rigid, fatuous, fantasy-driven energy policy that has rendered us scandalously dependent and excessively vulnerable.
Charles Krauthammer's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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