Gas Prices Not Really the President's Fault
Sure, policy affects things ... eventually
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2012 11:55 AM CDT
In this March 2, 2012 photo, Al Milani of Staten Island, pumps gas in Manhattan at a BP mini-mart.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(Newser) – As gas prices rise, President Obama's approval rating falls, which makes sense, because those painful numbers at the pump are all his fault, right? Wrong, say oil experts and economists. The Washington Post breaks down their arguments:

  • Policy: It definitely affects things, but it takes a long time for that to happen. Cars can take a decade to turn over, for instance, so tightening fuel efficiency rules doesn't kick in immediately. One expert notes that legislation George W. Bush signed in 2007 is helping stop the "current situation from getting worse."

  • Foreign factors: With most of Japan's nuke plants shuttered, it's now using an extra 320,000 barrels of crude oil (which makes up about 75% of the cost of a gallon of gas) daily. Infighting in Sudan has reduced the supply by another 240,000 barrels; unrest has hurt the output in Libya, Yemen, and Syria; and issues in the North Sea have squeezed Norwegian and British production.
  • Speculators: While traders don't dictate the movement of prices, they can accelerate the speed at which prices change.
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserve: It's an ace up the president's sleeve, and oil has been released from it three times. But experts aren't sure it actually helps things, and note that past releases only made a temporary dent in prices.
  • Keystone XL pipeline: There's been much ado about Obama's rejection of this, but if it had been approved, it would add excess pipeline capacity, not oil.