If you thought the Dubai port deal marked a record high in Washington cynicism, think again. Nothing can match the spectacle of politicians scrambling for cover during a spike in gasoline prices. And this time the panderfest has gone all the way to the Oval Office. President Bush has joined the braying congressional hordes by ordering the Energy and Justice departments and the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into possible gasoline price fixing.RTWT, it's not that long.
What a disgrace.
Precisely 10 years ago (April 29, 1996) as gas prices reached a shocking $1.27 a gallon, President Bill Clinton ordered his Energy and Justice departments to launch investigations to find out why. In my column that week, I offered a wild guess as to why: "supply is down and demand is up."
Sure enough, months later these perfectly pointless investigations discounted charges of price gouging and attributed the price hike to . . . increased demand and decreased supply.
Here's what the Bush search for price gougers and profiteers will find:
· Demand is up. China has come from nowhere to pass Japan as the number No. 2 oil consumer in the world. China and India -- between them home to eight times the U.S. population -- are industrializing and gobbling huge amounts of energy.
· Supply is down. Start with supply disruptions in Nigeria, decreased production in Iraq, and the continuing loss of 5 percent of our national refining capacity because of damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Add to that the mischief of idiotic new regulations. Last year's energy bill mandates arbitrary increases in blended ethanol use that so exceed current ethanol production that it is causing gasoline shortages and therefore huge price spikes.
Why don't we import the missing ethanol? Brazil makes a ton of it, and very cheaply. Answer: the Iowa caucuses. Iowa grows corn and chooses presidents. So we have a ridiculously high 54-cent ethanol tariff and ethanol shortages.
Another regulation requires specific ("boutique") gasoline blends for different cities depending on their air quality. Nice idea. But it introduces debilitating rigidities into the gasoline supply system. If Los Angeles runs short, you cannot just move supply in from Denver. You get shortages and more price spikes.
And don't get me started on the missing supply of might-have-been American crude. Arctic and outer continental shelf oil that the politicians kill year after year would have provided us by now with a critical and totally secure supply cushion in times of tight markets.
Blatantly stolen from Wizbang!