Nothing brings out the shamelessness of Washington politicians like rising gas prices, and President Obama is the latest case. His Justice Department on Thursday announced a task force to investigate oil industry prices and practices for fraud. But if there is fraud here, it is that the president and Republicans in Congress continue to fuel the myth that the federal government might, with an investigation here or plans to drill there, affect the short-term world-market price of a commodity America doesn’t and never will control.
If Obama’s new investigation sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the sort of thing President George W. Bush and the GOP Congress did in 2005 and 2006. Their probes were a waste of money. Not only did investigators conclude that there was no widespread price fixing, they had a tough time even finding credible complaints of price manipulation.
Republicans are cynically encouraging this nonsense. National Journal reports that GOP lawmakers are passing bills and holding hearings that won’t result in actual laws but will allow them to bash Democrats on gas prices, which they plan to make a major theme heading into the 2012 elections.
Among other things, they are preparing to hit Democrats for not supporting a trio of bills from the House Natural Resources Committee that would expand offshore drilling. More offshore drilling isn’t a bad idea in the long term, but it would do nothing to lower current gas prices.
The Republicans’ gas-price campaign should also be familiar. Liberals tried something similar during the previous administration, when they blamed higher gas prices on Bush’s foreign policy.
Rising gas prices simply aren’t Obama’s fault. Just as they weren’t Bush’s fault. Americans need to get used to factors affecting gas prices that aren’t in America’s control, particularly that the developing world will demand more oil as the economies of nations such as China and India grow. That’s not ideology; it’s supply and demand.
Steve Stromberg is an editorial writer for The Post.