Gas Prices Climb: Obama Investigates Oil Markets

Gas prices have been climbing for months.

Yesterday, during a campaign event in Nevada, President Obama announced that he is forming a team of attorneys and investigators to root out instances of “fraud or manipulation” in the oil markets.

“We are going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain.”

While focusing on high gas prices is helpful, President Obama’s approach betrays his fundamental distrust of free markets. He could substantively affect prices by allowing normal drilling operations in the gulf or open other areas to increased drilling. He could open on-shore domestic oil production, such as shale. Instead, President Obama chooses to focus on the marginal, stabilizing affect of speculative trading.

President Obama’s distrust of the free market is concerning, but more worrisome is his trust of governmental action and investigations. When did an activist government ever make things better or gas cheaper?

Unsurprisingly, Americans aren’t buying it. Even the New York Times, reporting poll results, recognized the seriousness of this mishandling:

Disapproval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy has never been broader — at 57 percent of Americans — a warning sign as he begins to set his sights on re-election in 2012.

Spencer Pederson, the spokesman for House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), points out how out of touch the President is on energy issues:

There is a real disconnect for the average American out there going to the gas station … and the president is out there talking about solar and wind farms. They need gasoline and until we get to a point where we don’t need gasoline, we need oil.

Instead of talking wind farms and investigations, Washington should focus on removing restrictive regulations and de facto drilling bans. Instead of distrusting, regulating, and investigating the oil market, the President should let function.

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