It's about time the administration began taking on the ogres of the left's imagination seriously. Attorney General Eric Holder has formed the "Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to Focus on Energy Markets" to expose the speculators, the gougers, and those fat cat millionaires. And if we can't confront make-believe distractions with "working groups," well, we are surely a nation in decline.
But of course, Holder will find the biggest frauds right in his administration, which—as a matter of policy, as a matter of faith—believes the price of fossil fuels ought to be extortionate and has done all it can to ensure it.
The left's "energy" initiatives of the past decade—the entire purpose of energy policy, in fact—have been aimed at artificially driving fossil fuel prices up to incentivize the bitter clingers to embrace the government's Utopian energy schemes. No secret has been made of it. In 2008, candidate Barack Obama was asked by CNBC's John Harwood, "So could the (high) oil prices help us?" Obama: "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment." Sudden spikes are bad (politically speaking), but gradual price spikes? Helpful. That same year, current U.S. "Energy" Secretary (then just a zany professor) Steven Chu clarified that "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."
Who says this administration doesn't get things done?
What we need are clean energy investments, properly inflated tires, Chinese-style rail systems—all free of the distraction of capitalism. Also, we must rid the nation of oil subsidies. This I completely support, as long as the funds are reinvested into projects beneficial for the struggling American worker, say, bike paths or public service announcements.
We all, you see, have to make adjustments. As President Obama explained, "if you're complaining about the price of gas and you're only getting 8 miles a gallon ... you might want to think about a trade-in." What kind of trade-in, sir? Let me guess. A $41,000 economy-class government-made Chevy vehicle (a real cost of 100K-plus without taxpayer support) that plugs into expensive government-subsidized energy produced by the sweet howling wind? Yes, these are the serious people.
Then, of course, there is all the profit-mongering we keep hearing about. The Congressional Budget Office reported that in January, federal and state fuel taxes sucked in about 48 cents per gallon for gasoline and 53 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. Government typically sees more profit per gallon of gas than the oil companies. At least the fossil fuel oligarchs—smart enough to control the entire world market but too dumb to do it more often—have the decency to provide a product before taking carnal advantage of us at the pumps.
Let's not forget the Environmental Protection Agency, which, as we speak, is in the process of rolling out the "the most far-reaching environmental regulatory scheme in American history," according to Time magazine. Using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases—so, all useful energy—the EPA is trying to initiate cap and trade by fiat. It has to because even a Democratic monopoly in Washington was unable to muster the courage to launch this kind of assault on prosperity.
Complaints about our "dependency on foreign oil"—considering the fungibility of the commodity, where we get it from and how long it takes to increase production—seem to be nothing more than crowd-pleasing bipartisan talking points. Surely, there could be a useful debate on the topic, if this administration cared one whit about increasing production at home. The de facto moratorium on offshore oil drilling and the regulatory burdens placed on new production prove that any "dependency" on oil, not just the Middle East variety, is the real problem.
The administration, of course, isn't at fault when oil prices spike; it just seems to make matters worse. Or better, if you happen to be an environmentalist. So why isn't it celebrating? Though the left may be wary of the political consequences, it has been pining for high fuel costs for decades. So here they are. Let's see how the economy responds.
David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Blaze. Follow him on Twitter at davidharsanyi. This column first appeared at Reason.com.
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