Wednesday, May 19, 2004
[We] all need to keep the shrill hyperbole about "record high" oil prices in perspective. A barrel of oil now costs more than $40, but when adjusted for inflation, that price is less alarming. During past spikes, oil has cost well over twice that amount in today's dollars. Yes, high fuel costs could ultimately endanger the economic recovery, but there is no reason to believe that they will do so at this level.
Amazingly, the Times actually locates a Bush administration decision that it agrees with:
President Bush is rightly resisting the call. Since 9/11, the administration has been adding to the reserve in a disciplined manner, and it is closing in on its goal of filling up the reserve's capacity, 700 million barrels. Tapping the reserve to assuage motorists at a time of increasing security threats to already tight fuel supplies would be foolish.
As the energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, correctly noted yesterday, "The reserve is not there to simply try to change prices." In fact, the law calls for it to be tapped only in the event of supply disruptions. And even if Washington wanted to alleviate rising fuel costs, the reserve is not a very effective instrument for doing so, as President Bill Clinton learned in the fall of 2000. Experts estimate that at most, turning on the spigot now would knock only a few cents off a gallon.
Fuel to drive your car for many miles costs less than bottled water. If you find that the fuel gets more expensive, use less of it, or take some of the money that you are spending on foolish or frivolous things, or mere luxuries -- bottled water, designer shoes, expensive wine, Starbucks, high-end greeting cards, dinner out, or new curtains -- and reallocate it to gasoline. But don't hector the President to torture the market into temporary reductions in gasoline prices. Drive them down yourself by driving more efficiently, or shorten your commute, or carpool, or ride a bike, or plan your weekend errands to reduce windshield time, or buy a car that gets better gas mileage. Or just suck it up. But don't complain about small real increases in the cost of gasoline in the cheapest gasoline market in the industrial world.
And where are the environmentalists? John Kerry's shameless pandering on gasoline prices runs starkly against the interests of those who would reduce greenhouse gases -- high fuel prices would cut sharply into the aggregate consumption of fossil fuels, which is precisely what organized environmentalists claim to want. Their hatred of Bush is apparently enough to stifle their objections to the Democrats' demands for government intervention to reduce gasoline prices.
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