Democrats need to be able to address pain at the pump

Gas prices are a supply and demand issue, not a who is in office issue. I’m always shocked how much we over-index a president’s control over gas prices. Demand was down during the pandemic while production capability was up, causing deflation. OPEC made this worse as they kept flooding the market. This resulted in domestic producers closing more refineries because of continued falling prices. But as the pandemic started to end demand started to grow, and domestic oil producers burned through their supply intentionally before they restarted oil production. But an unexpected supply shock happened in the form of a cold snap limiting supply as demand finally recovered that caused prices to go up. The Keystone Pipeline closing on the margins impacted this but not to the extent people believe. It would have made oil transportation cheaper, but the issue wasn’t transportation it was production. This was an add-on to an existing pipeline, and at best would have been a marginal gain because oil is still being transported by the existing pipelines, rail, and trucks. Read any of the articles that have summarized it, it’s pretty clear. If you should be mad at anyone it should be domestic oil producers and their shareholders who are incentivized by profit margins not your pain at the pump.

Why am I talking about all this? Because this is a constant excuse of those on the right to prevent any climate legislation. If we want to have any climate policy we have to address the elephant in the room, it will cost money, but we need to make clear what the costs are. When we talk about gas taxes, carbon taxes, and so on those are costs that will be passed onto the consumers we need to be honest about that. (Unless we can find a way to pay the cost back to consumers, look pack at my carbon dividend article.) But what we also need to be honest about are the subsidies we are giving the same companies that aren’t passed on. There is a profit issue, consumers are being burdened with the costs of doing business but not gaining from what the government is giving them. Climate policy should be focused on making energy costs more transparent, the more transparent we can make it the easier the transition. We also need to add more focus on making the subsidies they are receiving to keep prices down.

We can’t make the case for the Green New Deal, a Carbon Tax, or so on till we address the market manipulation the energy industry is engaging in. We need to address the cost benefits of our plans, including the negative externalities, and make it clear the cost and fluctuations they are seeing day to day aren’t part of that. Then we need to force those on the right to engage us honestly. They aren’t dismissing climate change or human causes anymore they are just arguing that it costs too much. We can’t allow them to control the narrative on costs. Climate remediation, adaptation will cost more than acting now with either a cap and trade policy or carbon tax. The best thing to do is to limit greenhouse gas emissions while we can, and the only way to do that is to build public support for it.

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