Saturday, January 8, 2011

Will high gas prices equal trouble for President Obama in 2012?

Listen up all you drivers who consume gasoline like Coca-Cola because some really bad news may be heading your way in the next year or so.

In a recent interview with Platt's Energy Week television, the former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, said Americans could be paying as much as $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012.

Though other experts in the industry disagree with this prediction, Hofmeister's comments should be a wake-up call for us all. Recently, oil prices exceeded $90 a barrel, and anybody who traveled during the Christmas holiday can attest that gas prices have crept higher.

While gas prices remained slightly below the $3 a gallon mark in our area, many places in the country were not so lucky. Especially in the Northeast, gas prices jumped above $3.10 a gallon.

It appears that we may go through a sequel of a really bad nightmare. Only a couple of years ago, prices surged above $4 a gallon, and the complaining from drivers was shrill and annoying.

Back then, many of us paid a dear price for having developed bad driving habits that included purchasing SUVs the size of tanks that got really bad gas mileage. Have we learned from that? I guess we will find out if Hofmeister’s prediction comes true.

If nothing else, we learned in 2008 that people will say anything to avoid taking responsibility for their own decisions when it comes to driving habits. Among the more humorous complaints during that period was that President George W. Bush was involved in some sort of conspiracy with the big oil companies to keep prices high.

Of course, from a political standpoint, this point of view made no sense whatsoever. It would have been political suicide to do anything of this nature. The bottom line is people had developed excessive driving habits and the cost cut deep into our wallets when we filled up at the pumps.

If Hofmeister's prediction comes true, I wonder if similar conspiracy theories will be hurled at President Barack Obama. Given how volatile our national political landscape is, I'm sure some crackpot will.

However, consider this: Unemployment remains unacceptably high, and in 2012, Obama runs for re-election.

If he has to run for re-election with both unemployment and gas prices high, it could be a nasty campaign. I will go on record now and predict that Obama will be re-elected in 2012. Still, if he has to battle those two issues, it will be a rough grind for him.

Last year's mid-term elections showed us all that voters are already impatient with Washington. Extremely high gas prices could become another issue that make folks rage against the machine in Washington.

To a large degree, this would be a repeat of what happened a couple years ago. People would not take responsibility for their decisions back then, and I do not believe they will in 2012 if prices do reach $5 a gallon.

It is always convenient to blame somebody else, and politicians make especially easy targets these days. I understand that my point of view on this is pretty cynical, but human nature being what it is, I can't imagine this unfolding any other way.

Still, 2012 is almost a full 12 months away, and there is still time to re-shape our driving habits. This could ease the demand for gasoline, causing Hofmeister's prediction to become just another comment that will not come true.

After all, people make predictions every day that come and go like the wind.

In this case, let us hope that Hofmeister's prediction gets blown away with the force a tornado brings.

If it does not, it will be us that will get blown away at the gas pump.

1 comment:

Ten Irish said...

Gas prices mysteriously came down from their all-time high in 2008, just in time for the election. Coincidence? I don't think so. Will his mojo be so good this time? Maybe not.