According to the reasoning of President Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and many other Democrats and progressives, Vladimir Putin, or Big Oil, or American gas station owners, or some combination of those three, have been getting nicer or less greedy and/or more patriotic (when speaking of the domestic actors). What’s the evidence? The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Anerica has fallen during this period.
After all, the President and his fellow Democrats have been saying since at least mid-spring March that prices at the pump had been soaring because the Russian dictator’s invasion of Ukraine (and resulting sanctions) has pushed up world oil prices, because the world’s oil companies have been earning “windfall profits,” and because U.S. gas station owners have been (unpatriotically) price-gouging.
Since mid-June, though, as Mr. Biden has just noted, gas prices are down. So the above culprits must have become less villainous. In fact, since several authoritative sources track these prices, it’s possible, depending on which one is considered most trustworthy, to know exactly how much less villainous.
Specifically, according to the GasBuddy.com website, national average pump prices are down 6.87 percent over the last month. So clearly, Putin, Big Oil, and gas station owners have collectively become 6.87 percent less heinous and/or avaricious and, in the case of U.S.-owned oil companies and the gas station owners, less unpatriotic.
The widely followed Lundberg survey says regular grade gasoline has become 4.14 percent cheaper during this period – so the Democrats’ culprits in its view haven’t become quite so benign.
They look better in Triple A’s eyes, though, since that organization calculates that pump prices are off by 6.74 percent.
Of course, the above analysis is the most childish and even self-serving form of nonsense. Gas prices, like prices of practically everything, depend on numerous interacting factors having nothing to do with foreign strongmen or corporate iniquity. World oil prices are the biggest single determinant, but these in turn are affected by national and global demand, which in turn results from the overall state of the economy, which in turn can be strengthened or weakened by fiscal policy (e.g., stimulus bills) and monetary policy (e.g., interest rates). Don’t, however, forget refining and pipeline availability, and even weather (as in bad hurricane seasons shutting down oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico in particular).
Complicating matters further, these and other oil price determinants don’t affect retail gas prices all at once, as they understandably take varying amounts of time to work their way through a lengthy production and distribution system. Meanwhile, future supplies depend on private investors examining this multi-faceted and highly fluid landscape to judge whether committing capital to the oil industry is their best bet for maximum returns. And these calculations are inevitably highly uncertain given that any payoffs will inevitably be years off.
So it’s indeed childish to ignore the complicated and constantly interacting dynamics of an enormous industry that at bottom needs to keep wrestling with inevitably fluctuating supply and demand conditions. And it’s self-serving because for years the President and his party have clearly worked hard to reduce the role played by a fossil fuel like oil in the U.S. energy picture.
If you doubt that self-serving claim in particular, or any of the above analysis, ask yourself this: Are these oil industry critics remotely as likely to start praising the producers and the gas station owners (or Putin) for reducing prices as they’ve been to slam them for the price increases?