My last post ridiculed Newt Gingrich's vision of making the moon the 51st state. Now, I'm going to ridicule him for recently saying that, if he were president, he'd make sure gasoline cost $2.50 a gallon.
But, I'm not really targeting Gingrich here. It's a fairly common charge in politics that expensive gasoline is the fault of the current president. Bush got blamed for high gas prices during his entire administration. He was in the "pockets of the oil companies." Obama is now being blamed, because his administration is "choking the oil industry with regulations."
It bugs me that republican's, who are supposed to be champions of the free market, feel like the federal government should be concerned with the market price of gasoline. It bothers me that democrats, who have been on the record proposing carbon taxes that would increase the price of gasoline, start proposing to tap the strategic oil reserves in hopes of driving prices down.
The reality is, while gas prices can be manipulated in hundreds of different ways in the short term, in the long term prices are determined by the balance of how much it costs to produce weighed against how much we are willing to pay for it.
We aren't unwilling slaves to the oil companies. We pay willingly for their product because we judge the benefits to outweigh the costs. If the costs go up, we do have plenty of tricks up our sleeves to reduce our spending on this or any other product. A coworker of mine has spend years commuting to work in an SUV. Recently, she's swapped this for a compact car. Higher prices can drive us to more fuel efficient vehicles and altered driving habits.
The energy shocks of the seventies produced cars that were radically more fuel efficient on average, and houses that were better insulated. Our appliances today are fine tuned to make the most efficient use of electricity, and the average cost is posted right on the front of each appliance when you buy it. Higher gas prices will produce similar change over time.
We as consumers have power over our purchases. That's the beauty of the free market.
When republicans hear democrats talk about setting prices for, say, health care, they cry "socialism!" If it's true for the cost of a doctor's visit, it's true for the cost of gasoline. Sorry, Newt.