2014 may not be a year we’ll look back on fondly as a nation, but there were bright spots to be found in all the gloom. The “ice bucket challenge” demonstrated that America has not lost its charitable spirit, we mercifully avoided a major outbreak of Ebola within our borders, and we threw those damn dirty Democrats out of the Senate. But if there’s one thing that both liberals and conservatives can get excited about, it is the (continuing) drop in fuel prices.
According to AAA, Americans saved approximately $14 billion at the pumps in 2014 when compared to 2013. That works out to a huge amount of savings for heavy travelers, and it has doubtlessly contributed to the serious bounce-back we’ve seen in the economy. For the first time since the recession, Americans have begun to get optimistic about spending.
Don’t Thank Obama
The falling oil prices are worth careful examination, seeing as how has gasoline is so often used as a political tool. President Obama took a share of the blame when prices were high, so is he now entitled to the credit? Well, not so much. And it’s important that Americans don’t get the wrong idea about that, especially as we gear up for the early rounds of the 2016 election.
It is fair to ask how much effect the American president has on gas prices to begin with. But inasmuch as Obama has played a role at all, it is almost certainly a negative one. From the beginning of his presidency, he has opposed opening up federal lands for drilling, he’s made it exceedingly difficult for companies to get permits for drilling on lands already open, and he has made it his agenda to hit the domestic oil industry with cumbersome regulations.
Despite all of that, U.S. oil production is way up. The increase – which comes mostly from drilling on non-federal lands – is largely responsible for the dropping price of oil. The private sector has embraced the search for natural gas, and OPEC has been put in the difficult position of maintaining production to compete. That works out to the advantage of the average American, though it’s impossible to say how long the good times will last.
The low prices we’re enjoying at the pumps, therefore, are a testament to America’s will to get the job done despite government interference. They are a testament to conservative policies that shift power to the private sector and out of Washington. And they are a much-needed life preserver at a time when Obama’s liberal agenda has hampered an economic recovery.