The Obama gas tax

Troy Senik Senior Fellow, Center for Individual Freedom
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If you’ve been spending much time at the gas pump lately, chances are you’ve been spending a lot less time everywhere else. With fuel costs soaring, everyday Americans are being forced to cut back on even routine car trips to avoid breaking the bank. In the last month alone, average gas prices have gone up nearly fifty cents per gallon. And because the cost of fuel is critical to supplying a wide array of goods and services, we’ll soon see prices skyrocketing everywhere.

While this trend appears to have gotten worse amid the turmoil in the Middle East — including the supply interruption in Libya — it has been a steadily rising pattern since even before the Middle East uprisings. In fact, gas prices are up 67 percent since President Obama took office a little more than two years ago. Lest you think this analysis one-sided, during the same period in President Bush’s tenure gas prices increased by only seven percent.

Yet that doesn’t seem to bother President Obama much. Earlier this month, he said that we can’t drill our way out of our energy problems. That is like suggesting you can’t medicate yourself out of an illness.

Opening up America’s vast domestic resources is literally the only realistic way to ease the pressure. It can lower prices at the pump, curb our reliance on foreign energy producers, and create new jobs right here on our soil. In short, it can do all the things that alternative energy claims to do but simply cannot despite billions of taxpayer dollars.

Yet President Obama has blocked energy exploration at every turn. For his secretary of the interior, he chose former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, a man who once said that he wouldn’t want more domestic oil production opened up even if gas prices hit $10 a gallon. Then, in the wake of last year’s Gulf oil spill, the administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling — a freeze that is effectively still in place today.

In addition to pushing up unemployment rates in the Gulf, these policies are keeping 97 percent of America’s offshore oil and gas off limits. To add insult to injury, President Obama recently told an audience in the newly oil-rich nation of Brazil, “We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely. And when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.” Don’t hold your breath for an economic recovery as long as the president of the United States is willing to do more investing in foreign economies than he is here at home.

If the president wants to complain about the effects gas prices are having on his popularity, he has only himself to blame. He has it in his power to push prices downward — and keep them down — with new energy exploration. Until he is willing to make that change, we’ll consider the higher prices at the pump the “Obama gas tax.”

Troy Senik is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom (www.cfif.org).