- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2011

The results are in from President Obama’s controversial decision last month to tap into the nation’s oil reserves to drive down gas prices: none. Like his futile efforts to revive the moribund U.S. economy by spending $1 trillion in borrowed money, the president’s release of 30 million barrels from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve produced nothing more than a brief pause in the steady rise in prices at the pump. Nearly three years into an energy policy designed to hector Americans into accepting pointless “green” alternatives, the president seems to have finally acknowledged his chances of being re-elected go down as gas prices go up.

Prior to the June 23 dip into the reserves, oil stood at around $93 a barrel. The price dropped more than $4 a barrel after the announcement but bounced back up to the same level within five days and ended last week above $97. Likewise, gasoline stood at $3.63 a gallon before the president’s move and subsequently fell to a low of $3.54 on June 30 before climbing steadily upward to $3.67.

The International Energy Agency did its best to help Mr. Obama, releasing 30 million barrels of its own. Though that may sound like a lot, it’s little more than a drop in the global oil bucket. Such moves have no lasting impact because oil traders are looking at the big picture. There isn’t enough supply to meet the world’s demand. Even if consumption has softened in the United States and Europe due to the persistent economic slowdown, the thirst for crude in places like China and India is growing.

Consequently, it appears the latest oil stockpile release is little more than an act of desperation by a White House that will do anything to avoid the consequences of its own inept policies besides change them. The price of gasoline is one of the most direct indicators of the state of the economy. For many Americans, finding the price higher each time they pull into the filling station serves as a nagging reminder that the Land of the Free is becoming more expensive every day. Mr. Obama’s job approval in the low 40s shows the public holds him responsible.

In its typical top-down approach, the administration wants to address the energy crisis by raising the fuel economy standard for vehicles to 56 miles per gallon by 2025. That means forcing everyone to drive expensive hybrids or plug-in electric cars. Meanwhile, over at the Environmental Protection Agency, new anti-coal regulations will take effect in 2012, forcing utilities either to shut down major plants, or invest in prohibitively expensive capital equipment. This will result in the electric grid having less capacity - and higher prices - at the same time consumers theoretically will be juicing up their new, Obama-approved jalopies. Already last week, Texas warned consumers of the possibility of rolling blackouts brought on by excessive summer heat.

The real solution is to increase production to boost supply. America has an abundance of black gold in places the administration has put off-limits. The very real prospect of $5 gas by Election Day ought to inspire Mr. Obama to reconsider the error of his ways.