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SPIGOLON: Free market, not presidents, control gas prices
Gas pump

You’ve seen them: the stickers some fools continually plaster on gas pumps that feature photos of President Joe Biden pointing and the words, “I did that” below it.

But how much have higher gas prices been Biden’s doing? Not much, just as former President Donald Trump could little claim he manufactured lower prices during his four years in office.

That’s because American presidents and politicians of either political party can do little about gas prices, other than react to them.

The U.S. is the biggest consumer of gasoline in the world. Gas prices in this country are the product of the free market and private oil companies’ stockholders. 

The president cannot order supply of crude oil by American companies to rise and fall, as is the case in places like China or other places ruled by authoritarian governments with nationalized oil companies. And he certainly can only try to convince other countries to increase production. 

It’s so much easier to criticize the opposing political party when it’s in power than it is to support its policies when your party is in power.

Trump’s supporters endured years of people making fun of his numerous gaffes and outrageous remarks on social media. Now they have used their opportunity to strike back at Biden with gusto, both with the gas pump stickers highlighting higher gas prices and the double entendre phrase “Let’s go Brandon.” 

Curiously, some area pastors and former pastors have repeated the phrase, but I digress.

Biden spearheaded a coordinated release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in November with Japan, India, South Korea, Britain and China that helped stop the price increases for a while — though China did not take part. 

Biden announced the release of 50 million barrels, which is about half of one day’s global consumption, according to news reports.

Yet, prices were expected to rise again and they have hovered at around $3.10 per gallon for regular gas in Metro Atlanta in recent months. 

Is Biden to blame for the lack of truck drivers willing to transport the commodity, which slows the supply at the pump? Was he to blame for the May 2021 cyber attack on a key East Coast pipeline operator which sent motorists to use such containers as plastic bags to hoard gasoline and send prices up?

No more than Trump was to blame for the virus in 2020 that sent global demand — and prices — sharply downward. 

Demand for gasoline fell sharply as employers temporarily shut down operations and traffic decreased noticeably on our roads as our government and others worldwide worked to fight the virus.

And the sudden decrease in demand had followed a regular over-supply by other oil-producing countries. They had been pumping out crude to supply the demand from a surging U.S. economy which began during the Obama administration and continued into Trump’s.

Crude prices dropped so low that it prompted American oil company executives to lobby Trump in April 2020 to use whatever means necessary to get prices back up — which Trump did by reversing his longtime call for more oil production by convincing OPEC to slash supply and increase prices.

Biden could increase sales from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) but experts say it has a very nominal effect on the daily worldwide demand. And this country only has a finite amount of oil in the reserve. 

A federal gas tax holiday to stop the collection of the federal 18.4-cents-per-gallon excise tax on gasoline is a possibility but economists have argued it would only increase demand and send prices even higher.

Some say Biden’s cancellation of permits for the 1,179-mile Keystone pipeline between the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, and Nebraska brought about higher prices. 

The project was first proposed by the Canadian government in 2010 but former President Barack Obama, for whom Biden was vice president, opposed the U.S. part of the pipeline. Obama said it would not affect energy dependence on foreign governments or lower prices, not mentioning environmentalists’ fears about its possible effect on groundwater. 

Trump supported the project, citing the jobs its construction would create, and issued permits allowing its construction within days of taking office in 2017.

It has yet to be built so we have no idea how much effect it had on prices.

After Biden took office, Trump soon claimed gas prices were more than a dollar higher than when he was in office. Yet, in true Trump fashion, he was more than 50 cents per gallon off from the $2.39 per gallon AAA said was the national average on his final day on Jan. 20, 2021.

If gas prices fall below those seen in the summer of 2020, Biden shouldn’t receive the credit for that, either.

Let’s get real about how much blame Biden — or any president — should receive for gas prices.

Trump needs to come up with other reasons why he should be returned to office if, indeed, that’s what he and his supporters want in 2024.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at