What the President Can Do About Gas Prices

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It was one of the most heated exchanges of last night’s debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, yet neither really answered it.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were asked the question last night, but both dodged. CNN says that’s because the answer is: not much…

The truth is that politicians and the government, for the most part, have very little real control over gasoline prices.

The price Americans pay at the pump is tied to the crude oil market — a global system largely beyond the reach of Washington.

There’s no gas price lever in the White House or Congress. If there were, it would be a safe bet to say everybody would leave it permanently on low to look good. It is true gas prices have risen under Obama, and CNN explains why.

“During recessions, demand for gasoline plummets as trucks pull off the road, companies cut back on travel and laid off workers drive fewer miles,” CNN says. In mid-2008 right before the recession hit – while President Bush was in office – gas prices reached an average of $4.12 a gallon. (The photo at right is from May 2008 in California.) Then they fell off a cliff along with the rest of the economy later in the year. That’s when Obama came into office.

But “since early 2009, the economy has haltingly improved, and demand for crude has risen. It has also spiked in the developing world — especially in China, India and South America,” CNN says. So prices went back up along with demand.

The U.S. does have an oil stockpile of about 727 million barrels – an amount the world would burn through in about a week. Increased drilling would only drop prices up to about three cents a gallon, according to a study CNN cites.

Stacy Johnson

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