- - Thursday, January 1, 2015

Barack Obama needed not one, but two autobiographies to tell the story of the first half of his life. He called the second version “The Audacity of Hope.” When he writes his account of the second half of his second term he should call it “The Audacity of Hype.” It will be the fanciful tale of how his economic policies were responsible for the modest recovery from six years of presidential mismanagement of the economy.

Mr. Obama sprained his wrist patting himself on the back just before he left for a gasoline-guzzling Christmas holiday in Hawaii for what he calls “a surging economy.” Shortly afterward his administration took credit for a 5 percent increase in the gross domestic product in the third quarter. But the economic “recovery,” such as it may be, is less a result of Mr. Obama’s economic policies of higher taxes and suffocating regulations than improvement in spite of them. The American economy is so big and so resilient that it’s difficult even for incompetence at the top to keep it throttled for long.

The recovery might be robust if Mr. Obama’s policies had not hamstrung recovery every step of the way, especially in the energy sector, where the president has been particularly hostile to affordable energy. With his monomaniacal effort to put coal mines out of business, his curbing exploration for oil and natural gas on federal lands, opposition to fracking, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and expensive carbon-emissions regulations, Mr. Obama has been the obstructionist-in-chief to affordable energy.

He employed remarkable audacity — the unkind might say mendacity — to take credit for the plunge in the price of gasoline over the past year.

“America is now the No. 1 producer of oil, the No. 1 producer of natural gas,” Mr. Obama boasted. “We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.”

According to the AAA, the national average price of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.29 a gallon this week, having plummeted $1.38, or nearly 40 percent, since June, and down $1.02 per gallon from this date last year. AAA estimates that “drivers are saving more than $500 million per day, compared to the highs in both spring and summer.” The average price of a gallon of gas in January 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, was $1.89 a gallon. The price of gasoline is returning what it was in the final days of the Bush administration.

The drop at the pump is welcome, not only as measured in the wallets of motorists, but in the transportation sector and the economy as a whole. The cost of energy is reflected in the price of everything, since it goes into everything manufactured and since goods must be trucked or otherwise transported to market.

But the credit for the plunging price rightly goes to the increase in U.S. oil production, made possible in no small part by fracking and horizontal-drilling technology, which enables the extraction of oil and natural gas from hitherto inaccessible places and by extraction from shale. The resulting glut of oil dropped the price of U.S. crude this week to just under $54 a barrel. That’s the lowest since May 2009.

Mr. Obama and his Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency have thrown up as many obstacles as possible to block the very technologies that have produced that abundance. That’s the audacity, and the American people, smart with preserving their pennies at the pump and the supermarket, are not likely to fall for it.

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