On April 23, 2008, when the U.S. was on the verge of a record-high gas price of $4.11 per gallon, the average retail price at the pump was $3.60 per gallon. Three years later, the average retail gasoline price is already $3.86 per gallon, according to AAA, and we are still several weeks, if not months, away from the historical gas price peak, which usually hits around Memorial Day and can plateau all summer.
What does this mean for the average American? It means not only that gas prices will likely top $4 per gallon, which they've already done in six states including California and New York, it means there is a good chance gas prices will exceed the record-high prices of 2008 and do so even earlier in the summer, likely prompting more utterances of that sugar-coated neologism, "staycation." And it also means that the cost of nearly everything in our fossil fuel-dependent infrastructure will likely continue to climb, putting some constraints on any economic recovery.
In his weekly address today, President Obama put the issue of rising gas prices front and center of the national agenda, and placed them in the context of deficit reduction and clean energy. And while President Obama put domestic oil production first in a list of things we can do about rising gas prices — noting that domestic oil production in 2010 was the highest it had been since 2003 — importantly, he did not say the expansion of domestic production.
The rest of the populist-leaning position of the President was pretty clear: protect the American consumer from corporate greed and Wall St. speculation by ending $4 billion annual tax subsidies to oil and gas companies and rooting out cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets respectively.
But by President Obama's own admission, "there is no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away." And more than most people, the President knows that fluctuations in short term gas prices are beyond his control. The long-view position he emphasized on Saturday had more to do with avoiding old habits and protecting clean energy investment than it did with finding quick fixes and savings at the pump that are merely cosmetic.
"In the long term, that’s the answer. That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil," President Obama said.
Photo credit: futureatlas.com