Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hope and Change at the pump.

On the day Obama was inaugurated, the nationwide average for gas at the pump was $1.78.

How's that "hope and change" workin' out for ya?

Pretty well, actually thanks. Since this is becoming the latest salvo in the knee-jerk conservative's pre-election flurry, here's the context:

Gas prices recorded their greatest-in-history decline throughout the fall of 2008 as the economy crashed. In May 2008, price at the pump was nearly $4/per gallon (if you stretch, you might remember this -- especially if you ride in a truck). By the end of that month, oil was selling at a record $130 per barrel and the pump-price reflected that. In July 2008, pump price had risen to $4.11 per gallon. The escalation peaked in August, foreshadowing the market meltdown that was only weeks away.

In September 2008, everything hit the floor, and per-barrel prices recorded the largest and fastest decline in the history of OPEC through the end of December.

Just after Obama was elected (in November) OPEC took the drastic step of withdrawing over 2 million barrels from daily production in an effort to drive up prices (now down to $40 a barrel, lowest in 4 years). It didn't help. Gas hit a 5-year low in December 2008 at $1.6, in the midst of the worst financial disaster in nearly 80 years, remember: no one was buying, even at that low price. So, yeah, gas was cheap...because we were in market free-fall and our entire system was on the brink of collapse.

What helped: at least a couple of things. 1. Bush bailed out the auto industry, that very same week that OPEC reduced its production by 2 million. 2. Obama continued Bush's bailout policies and added a few of his own, notably ARRA, which put state contracts for summer road-building back on course (I was working with state contractors at the time and saw this first-hand). As the recession bottomed out, gas prices rebounded -- especially since OPEC kept production low. By the summer of 2009, fuel prices were once again north of 3.50 -- right around where they were a year before in the last year of W's Presidency.

You can look it up.

It's worth remembering all of this, as cherry-picking the pump-price for his inauguration date is becoming a nice little "gotcha" piece for those hoping he doesn't get reelected.