September 28, 2022

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Opinion: Don’t blame gas prices on Joe Biden and Democratic energy policy

Your elected Republican lawmakers in Washington want you to think President Joe Biden, not Vladimir Putin, is the bad guy in the Russia-Ukraine war, and they especially want you to blame Biden, not Putin, for rising gas prices.

Don’t fall for it. Despite U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s effort to rub the raw spot in your wallet with inflammatory tweets from his @chuck4congress Twitter account, what he and many other errant Republicans are angling for is yet another red meat wedge for upcoming elections and to further their wingnut fossil fuel and pro-nuclear energy policies.

On March 4, Fleischmann tweeted: “American families are feeling the brutal effects of our country under Democrat leadership. Prices for gas and groceries continue to soar and our border remains wide open. We must FIRE Nancy Pelosi in November.”

The day before, he tweeted “The United States possesses immense oil and natural gas reserves that are going unused under Biden’s watch. We must utilize these resources to reclaim our energy independence.”

On Tuesday, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, on her official Senate Twitter account, wrote: “Retweet if you want Joe Biden to restart construction of the Keystone pipeline.”

Never mind that America IS energy independent.

Never mind that America IS the world’s largest oil producer and has been for several years.

Never mind that in December, in what The Atlantic aptly called “a ballet of global logistics,” more than 30 tankers ferrying liquid natural gas from the United States to destinations like Japan, Brazil, South Africa, canceled their trips and set a new course for the European Union. “On the days they pulled into port, the U.S. supplied more natural gas to Europe than Russia did,” The Atlantic wrote.

Fleischmann, Blackburn and other Republicans are — plainly and simply — using disinformation and the tragedy of Ukraine to scare you and as a rallying cry to “Drill, baby, drill.”

But there’s even more misdirection. Did we mention that it was the majority GOP Congress — not a president — that in 2015 lifted the ban on our own oil exports, meaning all American-drilled oil and some of our natural gas then began to be priced on the international market?

What did that mean? Global market forces — not our abundance of domestic fossil fuels — began then setting the price of oil and gasoline in the United States.

Light bulb! Global market forces still set the price of oil and gasoline at our pumps. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of those global market forces.

Shouldn’t this all be a lesson for our lawmakers?

You might recall that just a few days ago, many of our GOP lawmakers — especially those around these parts — were madly tweeting and pontificating for cameras and microphones that President Joe Biden wasn’t being tough enough on Putin for Russia’s reckless and dangerous invasion of Ukraine.

Never mind, again, that Biden already had imposed sanctions which were tougher than the ones for which many of our fact-free GOP friends were calling. Facts didn’t stop them from denigrating President Biden as though he, not Putin, was the enemy.

“President Biden’s strategy to prevent this invasion has failed. [T]he Biden Administration chose to do nothing until it was too late and must now change course,” Tennessee’s Sen. Bill Hagerty wrote.

Blackburn wrote “Biden must stand up to Putin and immediately levy severe sanctions “

And Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene starred as the keynote speaker at a Nazi rally in Florida where the group’s leader praised Putin’s actions, and the crowd chanted “Putin, Putin, Putin,” shortly before MTG stepped to the microphone.

Last year, only about 8% of U.S. imports of oil and petroleum products came from Russia. Almost half of Russia’s oil goes to European countries, while 42% goes to Asia and Oceania, according to barrons.com. And most of the European countries are banning Russian oil, too.

It’s true that Russia might sell that oil somewhere else, like China or India — but probably at a steep discount, according to experts, because fewer and fewer buyers are accepting Russian oil. Besides, remember those fuel-filled tankers steaming along their way from U.S. ports to the European Union? And that happened in December — long before the war shelling began and Biden announced the Russian oil ban on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Gas Buddy analyst Patrick De Haan recently told reporters shipments from Russia had already “plummeted” with the earlier sanctions acting as a “chokehold” on Russian oil exports.

So, if you want to blame someone for the hole in your pocket to fuel that oversized truck or SUV, look to the old saw about supply, demand and “what-can-I-get-for-it?”

Just don’t expect honesty from our crew of GOP leaders. They learned from the master of fact-free — Donald Trump, who on Dec. 8 in an interview told pundit Hugh Hewitt:

“Energy prices — we were energy independent, and now we’re going begging, ‘OPEC please send us oil, we have no oil, please send us oil.’ California just hit $7, $7.75 in certain areas of California. Can you believe it? It was $1.86 when I left.”

No, it wasn’t. Data collected by the federal Energy Information Administration shows the national average price of a gallon of gasoline the week of Jan. 18, 2021, was $2.38. Today it’s $4.17 — the highest it’s been since 2008. California’s average when Trump thankfully “left,” was $3.21. Even today it is $5.57, according to AAA.

Don’t trust the GOP. Verify.