Obama’s Gas Prices

A sign at a local Exxon station seemingly blames high gasoline prices on Barack Obama.

Stephen Green posts this sign, which seemingly blames high gasoline prices on Barack Obama:

Aside from the fact that it’s crazy to think US presidents control the price of gas—or, if they did, that they’d be this high four weeks before an election—it’s worth noting that gas prices are lower now than they were in the summer of 2008.

Here, from GasBuddy.com, is the five year trend:

And here’s the 8-year trend, the longest available on the site:

These don’t appear to be adjusted for inflation. Still, it’s pretty obvious that prices have fluctuated wildly and rapidly in recent years. Obama took office with prices at their lowest point during the eight year period shown, presumably deflated from the global economic meltdown.

To the extent presidents control gas prices, you’ve got to hand it to Obama’s predecessor: George W. Bush got prices down ridiculously low just in time for the 2004 and 2008 elections. It apparently wasn’t enough to push John McCain over the top, though.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Economics and Business, Quick Takes, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. It’s fairly well accepted by industry analysts and economists that the reason for the massive drop in oil and gas prices leading up to January 2009 was the worldwide economic downturn. Demand for oil dropped in pretty much every major market and stayed down for several months.

    What the people who blame Obama for the price of gas keep forgetting is that the market for both oil and gas is a worldwide market and that a significant portion of the “blame” for higher prices can be found in the increased demand for energy from China and India. In addition to that, there is also the risk premium that gets attached to the price of oil because of the fact that much of the world’s supply happens to be located in a part of the world that is under constant threat of exploding.

  2. legion says:

    Green’s posts have been becoming more and more unhinged lately… I wouldn’t expect much in the way of logical thought out of him on his best days, and as the prospect of an Obama re-election becomes more likely, watch for him to lose what’s left of his sanity in a big way…

  3. John Peabody says:

    Nuts to that. My uncle knows the guy who installed the price-setting dials inside an IT cabinet off the Cabinet Room of the White House (inside a locked file cabinet with a warning label). Some say it’s inside the desk in the Oval office- hah. Don’t be silly. That’s where they’d expect it to be.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @legion: I think he’s just doing Old School blogging where you throw out a lot of stuff without commentary or analysis with posts like these.

  5. Rob in CT says:

    The question is: are the people who push things like this actually so dumb they believe it? Or are they just grasping at straws – willing to push any old BS in desperation?

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Obviously they’re not Obama’s gas prices. The same way they weren’t Bush’s gas prices, although ironically enough leftists with those “When Bush took office gas prices were….” bumper stickers on the back of their Lexus SUVs wouldn’t be able even to grasp the irony.

    But here’s the greatest irony of all: To a very large extent they’re the Sierra Club’s gas prices. For the obvious reason — albeit not obvious to the chattering classes — that refining capacity is one of the greatest factors in determining gasoline prices. Even moreso than currency exchange rates. Hell, the only items which trump refining capacity, and not even necessarily over the short term at that, are the prices of crude oil (which in turn largely are tied to production, go figure) and overall macro demand, i.e., the economy at large.

    We went multiple decades without building a single gasoline refinery anywhere in the country. Think about that. The population didn’t stop growing. But not one extra refinery added. None. Nada. Zilch. That’s because Democrats wouldn’t allow it. Because the Sierra Club instructed them not to allow it.

    If we had more refining capacity gasoline prices would be a lot lower. It’s really that simple.

  7. JKB says:

    Ironically for Obama, the way to lower worldwide oil and gas prices is to bring new sources online. Especially sources located in stable countries with democratic governments. Like Canada, the US is looking a bit shaky.

    Then you facilitate the development of pipelines to bring those new sources to refineries as cheaply as possible. As opposed to leaving transport to train tank cars which are inherently more risky for spillage even though the train shipping benefits a wealthy Obama crony.

    So while it is true the president can’t control global oil prices, this president had an opportunity to impact global supplies, which basic economics indicates has an impact on pricing.

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    @Tsar Nicholas

    :If we had more refining capacity gasoline prices would be a lot lower. It’s really that simple.

    This just dead wrong – we are exporting gasoline and the prices are what they are because that’s what the rest of the world is willing to pay. Second the price of oil has been around $90 bbl because that’s what it takes to develop and produce it – the easy stuff is all gone. If drops below 80 or 90 dollars they will simply stop producing.
    While no new refineries have been built existing ones have been expanded.

  9. Just Me says:

    I remember the media harping on Bush for gas prices and his ties to “Big Oil” not the gas prices have been sustained at a pretty high rate, there isn’t even a hint at blaming Obama-even though Obama during his campaign argued for higher gas prices to help lower energy use.

    The reality is that the high gas prices hurt the poor people he proclaims to care about the most. Obama doesn’t care if gas is $4 a gallon, because the taxpayers are picking up his gas bill. And when he is out of office he still won’t care, because his income is high enough that $4 a gallon won’t matter.

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    That’s because Democrats wouldn’t allow it. Because the Sierra Club instructed them not to allow it.

    Tremble, tremble at the might of the dreaded Sierra Club! When the Sierra Club commands, the world bows down and obeys! Woe to him who incurs its terrible wrath!

  11. mantis says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    The population didn’t stop growing. But not one extra refinery added. None. Nada. Zilch. That’s because Democrats wouldn’t allow it. Because the Sierra Club instructed them not to allow it.

    Bullshit.

  12. legion says:

    @James Joyner: I used to read him more regularly, but he’s gotten less snarky and more snide of late – I find conservatives, at least True Believers, often make poor comedians. He’s apparently been complaining about feeling marginalized & ignored by other conservative bloggers in recent weeks also.

  13. Rob in CT says:

    @Just Me:

    Hmm. Funny. I don’t remember “the media” doing that. As I recall, the issue with his (and moreso Cheney’s) ties to the oil industry thing wasn’t about oil prices, as I recall, but about other things (like, oh, say, the massive hard-on that Administration had for Iraq, no-bid contracts, energy policy in general…).

    I do remember arguing with people on forums about gas prices some years ago. At the time, there was this thing going around that if you staged a 1-day “boycott” of a particular brand of gas station (!) you could make those meanies lower prices.

  14. Rob in CT says:

    Tsar trembles in fear of the Sierra Club.

    JKB sees US democracy as “shakey” (apparently because his side looks like it’s going to lose a free and fairly contested election).

    Better boogiemen please.

  15. legion says:

    @JKB:

    So while it is true the president can’t control global oil prices, this president had an opportunity to impact global supplies

    True, but only half the story. You assume that the oil sources the US _could_ tap are at all comparable in either size or ease of access to currently -producing fields, and that just ain’t so. Not to mention the lead time required – if Obama had authorized “drill baby drill” his first day in office, we still wouldn’t be putting the gas from that oil in our cars today. Now, if we had a truly economically and environmentally viable way to get oil from Canada’s shale, this would be a different story…

  16. JohnMcC says:

    As anyone with the intelligence to use the google could quickly determine the refinery capacity in the US is being diminished by the oil companies themselves. They have determined that it’s good for their business and — well — despite the desire of Mr Romanof there is no way that the Gov’t can stop them. Just for an example, look at the BusinessWeek magazine dated Feb 23d, 2012, for an explanation of this policy. The article is titled “Angry About High Gas Prices? Blame Shuttered Oil Refineries.” To assist the conservatives here, the words are really simple and there are pictures.

  17. Dustin says:

    This is a direct copy/paste from a family member and indicative of what tea-partier types honestly believe about gase prices; “I remember when prices spiked during the Bush years. He just talked about releasing oil drilling rights and the price of oil fell to almost record lows.”

    These people honestly believe in magic.

  18. Tony W says:

    @Just Me:

    “And when he is out of office he still won’t care, because his income is high enough that $4 a gallon won’t matter.”

    So now you accuse Obama of acting like a Republican?

  19. @JKB:

    Then you facilitate the development of pipelines to bring those new sources to refineries as cheaply as possible. As opposed to leaving transport to train tank cars which are inherently more risky for spillage even though the train shipping benefits a wealthy Obama crony.

    The problem with the XL Pipeline wasn’t pipelines in general, but that specific pipeline. For example, the land was being secured almost entirely via eminent domain actions. Are you saying you now agree with nationalizing private property for the purpose of furthering a centrally controlled industrial agenda?

  20. Lynda says:

    Funny how conservatives never point to natural gas prices

    http://www.forecast-chart.com/forecast-natural-gas.html

    or coal prices

    http://www.infomine.com/investment/metal-prices/coal/5-year/

    over the same timeline.

  21. Rob in CT says:

    @Lynda:

    War on Coal!

  22. KansasMom says:

    In some states that sign would be in violation of the law.

  23. jukeboxgrad says:

    JKB, you should clean up your prior falsehoods (example, example) before posting a bunch of new ones.

  24. bk says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: What a bunch of crap. You probably believe that authorizing the Keystone pipeline would somehow increase our energy independence, even though it would transport oil from Canada.

  25. bk says:

    @Just Me:

    even though Obama during his campaign argued for higher gas prices to help lower energy use

    Except that he didn’t.

  26. jukeboxgrad says:

    even though Obama during his campaign argued for higher gas prices to help lower energy use

    You must be thinking of Mitt, who said this:

    we’d be a lot better off in this country if we had European gas prices

    It’s that Quantum Mitt Romney again.

  27. Carson says:

    Here is one way to get gas prices back down: Congress threatens an investigation. Gas always goes down when this happens – every time.
    Watch this documentary video: Gashole

  28. john personna says:

    Tremble, tremble at the might of the dreaded Sierra Club! When the Sierra Club commands, the world bows down and obeys! Woe to him who incurs its terrible wrath!

    Walk softly and carry a titanium spork.

  29. Eric says:

    Haha. Convenient how you cut off 2004. Because the gas price average was exactly the same @ $1.85 when they both Bush and Obama took office. Ironically. Therefore, as you have shown Pres. Bush exceeds the $4 mark, actually August 2008 gas prices peaked @ $4.11. Now Pres. Obama’s does not exceed $4 clearly as you have shown, actually as of Aug 27, 2012 gas prices peaked @ $3.87.. Quit patronizing my intelligence. Not hear to argue with anyone, cause its not even an argument. Just straight numbers. The only thing that doesn’t LIE.