Gas Prices May Fall Sooner Than Expected

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Everybody is talking about the price of gasoline. These are but a few of the myriad conversation bits you might have been privy to over the last few weeks:

It's Obama's fault! Or, are high gas prices hampering Obama's reelection bid? Will they rise high enough to stall the mild economic recovery that's underway? Newt Gingrich promises $2 gas! Can the GOP really bring prices down, like its loudest members claim? Should we drill for more oil?

So, amidst the cacophony of 'gas price' coverage, here's something you might not have heard yet: Gas prices may soon begin to decline, despite the recent, much-ballyhooed bump. NPR reports:

It looks like gas prices on the West Coast are headed down.

"Wholesale prices for gasoline are trading about 50 cents a gallon lower than they were as recently as Feb. 24," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J.

That means retail prices are likely to head down soon too, at least on the West Coast. For the U.S. overall, the federal Energy Information Administration projects that regular gas prices will continue to rise to nearly $4 a gallon this summer, then decline at the end of the summer driving season.

The whole piece is worth a read (or a listen), as it offers a decent reflection of public attitudes towards gas prices. There's a sense of helplessness, a lack of understanding, and justified frustration—and it's not hard to see how that frustration gets funneled towards the president.

I probably don't need to remind you that the president doesn't have any control over gas prices, or that oil is traded on a global commodity market, or that global demand and international political volatility is driving the spike.

In fact, it's hard to say how much of the outcry has been driven by the public's genuine concern over rising prices—I am sure the concern is genuine, but they rise according to a similar pattern rather often, even in non-election years—and how much has been driven by political opportunism. The fact that nobody likes rising gas prices clearly offers a window for a political narrative, and media covering horse race politics have been all too happy to emphasize another dramatic conflict.

There's no doubt that the gas price issue has been amplified by such forces, none of which will eagerly welcome the news of falling prices. But everyone else will.

Of course nobody really wants to talk about the actuarial root of the problem: That our economy's continued dependence on a fossil fuel whose supply is being stretched thinner by the day will result in similar price shocks on a regular basis. The only real remedy has nothing to do with drilling—and everything to do with alleviating that dependence.

Tags: Barack Obama | Oil | United States