High Gas Prices Should Spark Washington to Pursue Alternative Energy Solutions

On January 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as President, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.84. Today, the national average is $3.65 per gallon. Opponents have pounced on Obama, putting the lions’ share of the blame on him. Obama cites factors that are beyond his control. Consumers are wondering who is really correct. But a more poignant question is, should gas prices even be politicized?

There is no single solution that would bring gas prices down to $2.50 per gallon. Politicians should use this opportunity to make the push for alternative energy sources that are not subject to world events.

House Speaker John Boehner says that Obama’s obstructionist policies are to blame for such high gas prices and that the President is beholden to environmentalists. Newt Gingrich says he can bring gas back down to $2.50 per gallon if sworn in. The GOP looks at rising gas prices as a potential weakness for Obama during this election cycle. Their solutions for lower gas prices include more drilling and the approval of the Keystone XL project. Obama, on the other hand, attributes the rise in prices to factors that are outside of his control. The need for more oil to fuel the growing economies in China and India, as well as tensions in the Middle East, are the reasons for the recent spike in oil prices. That the United States’ domestic oil production is now at an eight-year high is a fact that is conveniently not addressed by the GOP candidates.

Global oil markets are extremely volatile. Market analysts say that the spike in oil prices is due to a possible disruption in global supply, courtesy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. Traders are driving the price of oil up by purchasing oil in anticipation of any supply shortages. Simple economics indicates that any change in the demand curve will have an effect on prices. Demand is currently up, and prices reflect that.

The debate should not be about who is to “blame” for rising gas prices. Why should the American consumer be subject to events that happen halfway around the world? What we need is to continue to develop a long-term energy strategy that does not rely on fossil fuels. Higher fuel standards for vehicles will not only decrease the demand for oil, but also drastically reduce gas prices. The United States must do more to incentivize alternative energy. Recently, the House of Representatives opted not to extend the Wind Energy Tax Credit. Wind provides an energy to homes and businesses that is not subject to global market speculation. Use of wind, solar, and bio-diesel energy will reduce our need for oil.  

Our nation’s current top consumer of oil, the Department of Defense, is investing heavily in the use of alternative fuels. The Marines are establishing more and more solar powered Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan. Fort Irwin is now using solar panels for their power needs, and they are selling back the excess electricity to local energy companies. The Navy and Air Force are using bio-diesel as jet fuel without sacrificing power. (Naval fighter jets using bio diesel have broken the sound barrier.) 

Instead of one side blaming the other for rising fuel prices, the U.S. must work together and take the lead on alternative energy. The American consumer does not deserve to be subject to oil market shifts. By offering tax incentives and putting the purchasing power of the federal government into alternative fuels, we can do this.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons