Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Kerry on gas prices: Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry was in San Diego yesterday railing against high gas prices.
Taking a page from his former opponent Howard Dean, Kerry has taken to referring to the higher gas prices as the "Bush Gas Tax Hike." The "logic" of this phraseology seems to be that if the price of some item rises during a president's term, then that is a tax.
By that lame logic, since the price of homes here in San Diego has shot through the roof, then that too has been a Bush "tax." Let's ignore the endless environmental regulations, governmental red tape, etc., that contribute to those high prices -- it's all a Bush "tax."
Kerry suggests that Bush has not sufficiently, unilaterally, threatened OPEC producers, including Saudi Arabia, to boost production. The "thinking" here is that Bush, in the midst of a re-election battle in a closely divided nation, wants his oil buddies to make their money quickly before he loses and Kerry takes over. Yeah, right.
Among Kerry's suggestions:
End Closed-Door Policies Written by and for Big Oil. Dick Cheney’s energy task force that met with energy industry officials in closed meetings led to the administration’s energy policy – a virtual smorgasbord of benefits for the oil, gas, electricity, and nuclear power industries that threatens the environment and takes us backward by increasing our dependence on polluting sources of energy.
Which spawned this joke by Conan O'Brien:
John Kerry made a speech announcing a plan to control gas prices. After hearing this, President Bush said, "That's crazy. Only Dick Cheney can control gas prices."
Now, there's some truth in this. If gas prices could be lowered by jawboning OPEC and oil companies, who would have more pull, John Kerry or George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?
If Kerry wants to know, there are three reasons that gas prices are high here in San Diego:
1.) Wholesale prices
2.) Lack of refinery capacity
3.) Summer fuel blends
Kerry pays lip service in his proposal to the first and third items, but ignores the second -- and that's perhaps the most critical. Anytime a refinery goes down for maintenance, gas prices go up. We can't import additional gas from Arizona or Nevada or Oregon, because the federal government has set special rules for the formulation of gasoline for California.
Patchwork Regulations Reduce Flexibility and Drive Up Price. There are more than 300 local and state fuel regulations in the U.S. These regulations result in a patchwork of gasoline zones across the country where only certain fuels can be sold, creating price disparities across the country. The large number of fuel types also limits flexibility in product distribution, particularly if a disruption occurs. Consumers pay for that lack of flexibility whenever there is a price spike.
Streamline Fuels to Reduce Costs and Increase Flexibility. Action must be taken to reduce the proliferation of boutique fuels. This is necessary if we are to increase the ability to provide an adequate supply of gasoline and other fuels in times of disruption or in tight markets, such as those we will see this summer. A Kerry Administration will work with States to develop rational fuel policies that ensure local air quality is protected while reducing market problems that result from the number of boutique fuels used around the country. Gasoline needs to be more fungible from region to region in order to prevent regional or localized price spikes and volatility. This will restore the market flexibility that is necessary to protect consumers.
Kerry's got this right, and a Kerry administration might actually try to accomplish this. When President Bush attempts to do it, the media, noting that Bush is a Republican, go into attack-dog mode.
Bush To Roll Back Pollution Rules
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2001
(CBS) - The Bush administration said Friday it would relax federal pollution rules for blending ethanol into gasoline for the Chicago and Milwaukee markets to avoid a spike in fuel prices during the summer driving season.
Environmentalists, still upset by the president's recent reversal of a campaign promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants, aren't buying the assertion that the new gas formula won't pollute.
"This has a health impact, and I think the people who live in Wisconsin and Illinois who will be breathing this air that's less healthy now would think that this is a significant impact," said Deb Callahan of the League of Conservation Voters.
Kerry's identification of the overregulation that results in so-called botique fuel blends as a problem is an honest first step in easing the pain caused every spring as California's refineries switch over to the summer blends. It would be nice, however, if Kerry's environmental supporters wouldn't demonize Republicans when they attempt to do what Kerry suggests.