On the busy corner I live near, a Shell station and a Mobil station sit catercorner from one another. Although giant corporations would never violate the Sherman Act by making horizontal agreements to fix prices, these competing stations, somehow, always charge exactly the same price for each grade of gasoline. Until this Fall, here in Chicagoland, with some of the highest gasoline prices in the country, that always seemed to be going up. The highest recent price I can recall, earlier this Fall, was $4.29.9/gallon for regular unleaded.
The price of gasoline doesn't make much difference to my life, personally. My two wage earner household drives one car, a 2007 Prius with barely over 35,000 miles. The gas tank holds just over 10 gallons of gas. We drive very little, using public transit for 95% of our work commute mileage, and rarely take long driving trips. We buy gas about once a month or less and the difference in cost per tank, whether we are paying $3.50 or $4.50 per gallon, is less than the cost of a couple of lattes. It is not a BFD, for my two income household.
But in less affluent households, driving less efficient vehicles and with less access to useful public transportation, that is, for almost everybody else in America, the price of gasoline can make a lot of difference in people's lives and prosperity, personally. And though high gasoline prices almost certainly are environmentally sound as a matter of policy, the pain in the lives of ordinary working families, when prices reach new heights, is equally genuine.
Pain and fear are staples of GOP political messaging and so, inevitably, Mitt Romney and the GOP have passed by very few opportunities to try and blame President Obama and Democrats for high prices at the pump. Mitt Romney kept it up at the recent Town Hall Presidential debate when he was lobbed a softball about whether it is the job of the Energy Secretary to try and keep gasoline prices low. Romney played a totally phony gambit of blaming high gas prices on the President's sound decision to take back oil leases on federal lands from lessees that just sat on them and refused to drill. While that reduced the number of outstanding drilling permits, a matter of no consequence, it resulted in an increase in production on federal land, a matter of considerable importance and contrary to Romney's attempted point.
Aside from the phoniness of their arguments on the merits, the problem for Romney and the Republicans, now, is that gasoline prices have been suddenly plummeting in a way that anyone who drives is bound to notice. On the corner I mentioned above, the price is down to $3.53.9, as of tonight. According to news reports, prices are dropping similarly all over the country, from California to North Carolina, and even in Paul Ryan's own hometown.
Romney and the Republicans, of course, are decent, honest and honorable men and women. As noted by Paul Ryan's own hometown paper:
Gas prices have been a hot topic during much of the campaign, the story notes. Some battleground states including Wisconsin are enjoying big price drops.Decent, honest and honorable people can be relied upon, having piled on with the blame, to now give credit where credit is due.
So, follow me out into the tall grass to see what our friends in the GOP are saying about it now that gasoline prices are in free fall just before the election.