Remember in early 2012, when gas prices were approaching $4 per gallon? Republicans were eager to blame President Obama for consumers having to pay more at the pump. “[Obama] gets full credit or blame for what’s happened in this economy, and what’s happened to gasoline prices under his watch,” then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed. “This president will go to any length to drive up gas prices and pave the way for his ideological agenda,” he said in February 2012. House Speaker John Boehner made similar comments.
Those comments never made any sense, because Obama has very little control over gas prices, which are determined by global supply and demand. In 2012, as the economy recovered, demand for gas rose as consumers decided to drive to work and take more weekend vacations. That pushed gas prices higher. The president isn’t entirely powerless to affect prices, since he can approve drilling permits and pipelines to increase the supply of oil. But his influence is still limited. Even after the recent explosion in U.S. oil production, the country still produces just 10 percent of global crude.
That expansion in U.S. production is not necessarily a good thing, because it is severely damages the environment. But it has reduced the price of crude oil. Gas prices have also fallen as the Chinese and Eurozone economies weaken, reducing demand. Once again, that’s not necessarily good news. But for drivers in the United States, it means cheaper gas.
Are Republicans commending Obama for today’s low gas prices? Of course not. And they’re right not do so. The president doesn’t deserve credit for lower gas prices, just as he didn’t deserve blame back in 2012.