Americans today are paying an average $3.92 for a gallon of regular gas. The pain of watching the number at the pump tick ever higher doesn’t seem to be shared by President Obama or his allies on Capitol Hill. Democrats see the sky-high cost of petrol as a way to force other people to get around by public transportation and electric cars. Thankfully, they don’t have the support to get away with it.
Just before a Thursday vote in the Senate to hike taxes on oil companies, the president appeared in the Rose Garden to make his case. “Today members of Congress have a simple choice to make,” said Mr. Obama. “They can stand with the big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people.” He claimed energy manufacturers would absorb the new taxes rather than passing them on to the consumer in the form of higher gas prices.
Apparently, Mr. Obama’s speech wasn’t very inspiring. Four Senate Democrats joined all Republicans in opposing the procedural measure, leaving it nine votes short of the 60 needed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell believed the Democratic-controlled Senate was wasting precious time carrying water for Mr. Obama. “Somehow they thought that doing this would set up some kind of a political win for them,” the Kentucky Republican said on the floor. “I can’t imagine anybody giving them any high-fives for not lowering the price of gas.”
The president wants to raise taxes on oil companies by about $40 billion over 10 years. Senate Democrats were more modest, limiting the tax hike to just the biggest companies for about $26 billion over 10 years. Even if Democrats were interested in using the new revenue to reduce the deficit, this tax would barely cover five hours of government spending a year. Instead, their bill used the majority of the money to increase the subsidies to their political allies in the intermittent energy business, making this a mere redistribution of corporate wealth.
As Mr. Obama explained, “We should be using that money to double down on investments in clean-energy technologies that have never been more promising. Investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels, investments in fuel-efficient cars and trucks and energy-efficient homes and buildings.”
These companies already enjoy tens of billions in tax breaks, loans and direct cash infusions. Without driving up the price of gas, nobody is going to want to ride Mr. Obama’s beloved “high-speed” trains or buy his government-crafted Chevy Volts. This attack on “big oil” is nothing more than election-year political pandering.
For a man fighting his last campaign, Mr. Obama is making a mistake by placing himself on the wrong side of public opinion. Struggling families care more about affordable transportation than achieving eco-credibility by using the impractical - but trendy - alternatives cooked up by Mr. Obama’s financial backers. Voters should keep in mind what Mr. Obama will do to oil prices if he wins a second term and gains more flexibility.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.