Let's Have An Election That Hangs On Gas Prices

MGSPiller/CC BY 2.0
Bumper stickers on an Edsel.

I was wrong: Republican politicians are back on their tried and true strategy of fighting for votes by chanting Drill Baby Drill. President Obama has reacted, characterizing it as "bumper sticker" thinking. You'd think GOP strategists would see the danger of trying to drive a rust bucket strategy to the polls. Here's why.

Danger of pegging politics to crystal ball economics
When was the last time economists successfully predicted the average cost of gasoline 8 or 9 months ahead? That would be the time they successfully predicted a hurricane destroying offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and flooding refineries, right? Or, like the time they foresaw several national economies falling because of corrupt financial institutions running the show.

Suppose the Chinese or the Brazilian economy (or both) slowed this summer. As both nations are prime customers for US liquid fuel exports (currently growing at a record pace) falling demand would bring down average gas price at the average US pump. Voters would lose interest.

Conversely, lets suppose that liquid-fuel-hungry US and Chinese and Brazilian economies strengthen this summer. US liquid fuel prices, driven by growing global demand, would rise. Voters would be looking for a scapegoat, having even less money left from their pay. Will they blame oil companies, the Obama Administration, 'furniners,' or all of the above? Hard to say isn't it?

Volatile gas prices would be a good thing.
High price variability at the pump from now on in to the fall election would be the best thing there is for the environment and public health. People who have no grasp of the fact that fuel prices are driven by global supply and global demand would figure that the free market is not going to fix this one. Given the choice between buying a fuel efficient car or not, more Americans would opt for individual responsibility and get the efficient model.

Tags: Ecological Economics

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