Despite the current demagoguery about gas prices, it turns out that gas prices aren’t really at their highest level ever if you account for inflation. However, they are rising, partly due to the annual price rise as refineries switch to EPA-mandated summer reformulations, partly due to gas taxes, and partly due to increased demand from China and other countries coupled with a reduction in supply by OPEC.
So Kerry plans to pressure OPEC and invade the national strategic oil reserve (by halting additions to it) to reduce US demand, a dubious strategy. But he does want to lower prices. So why aren’t environmental groups protesting?
In the past, environmental groups argued for higher gas prices. Sure, they prefer taxation to market rises in the price, but nonetheless, they want it. As a way of reducing oil consumption, they’re right: gasoline demand may be inelastic, but that doesn’t mean it never changes. Higher prices will cause people to conserve their trips and buy more fuel-efficient cars. It happened in the late 70s and early 80s when Japan’s econoboxes became popular cars due solely to gas mileage.
In the recent past, we’ve actually had some of the lowest gasoline prices ever, and that has fueled the popularity of gas-guzzling SUVs, also much decried by environmental groups. I share their antipathy toward SUVs, though not their desire to use the government to force manufacturers to stop making them. I’d much prefer that the government simply cease subsidizing them by giving them preferential treatment under fuel economy and safety regulations. This is what many environmental groups have called for, but many of them would go further, and I wouldn’t.
So now price increases are hurting the poor soccer mom and her monster SUV that she uses to take her 80-pound son to soccer practice along with is one-pound soccer ball and nothing else. Awwww. As Nelson would say, “Ha-ha!” Screw you and your asshole driving habits, SUV lady. Eat high gas prices.
But apparently I’m alone in celebrating this and criticizing Kerry, who is supposed to be a member of the party that is friend to the environment, for supporting continued SUV subsidies through artificially cheap gas prices. So where are they? I haven’t seen a single word in the major press from them.
Now it could be that none of the factors I’ve mentioned above are responsible and all the price rises are due to Dick Cheney’s friends screwing the American consumer for their own greed. Still, whatever the reason, environmental groups should welcome anything that will take SUVs off the road and make people drive less. It doesn’t matter why, as long as it happens.
I Admit It, I’m Being Disingenuous
Now obviously these groups think they will get more with Kerry than they will with Bush, so they want to remain silent in the hopes of getting him elected. But couldn’t he pound Bush for saddling people with SUVs by refusing to regulate them as passenger cars instead of saying “I’ll lower your gas prices more than Bush will! I’m a bigger Republican than he!” Surely some environmental group could at least release something blaming SUV popularity for the negative effects of gas price increases, adding a nice little “I told you so,” as I have above.
Still, it would be very nice to see a little ideological consistency out of them. If I can’t count on Democrats to be Democrats when it counts, then how can I count on them the rest of the time?