Gas prices are rising and the options for policymakers are few and getting fewer, but there are some good ones.
Let’s be clear. The US barely uses Russian oil (most of which goes to Europe and Asia). Still, it’s true that without buying from Russia, the world’s available supply of oil and gas is smaller and reduced supplies tend to result in higher prices. But do they have to?
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Big Oil was posting record profits. According to the US government watchdog group Accountable US, Chevron, Shell, Exxon and BP made over $75 billion in 2021, a record sum. The oil companies are awash in wealth. They could at any point choose to lower prices for a beleaguered public in wartime. Instead, their executives are choosing to puff up dividends and CEO salaries and buying back their own shares; stock buy-backs being win-wins for shareholders.
Now Republicans and their Big Oil buddies are threatening to spread anti-Biden lies all the way to the midterms by blaming price spikes on White House bungling, while demanding that the administration open the last protected bits of public lands to drilling.
Bad options number one, two and three: drill the lands, give into the Big Oil thugs and lose the midterms.
Bad option number FOUR would be to go groveling to Saudi Arabia to pump more oil and increase supply, a move the White House is clearly considering. To plead with the Saudis right now, would be to plead with a nation that’s just executed 81 innocent men – mostly professors, for unpatriotic acts – and annually executes LGBTQ people in public. And let’s not forget the House of Saud’s role in standing with Russia, and the just-as-deadly wagers of the civil war in Yemen.
There are some better options: stand strong against the bloody House of Saud and bad-old big oil and their pals and side with beleaguered Americans and their progressive allies in Congress. Progressives are calling on the administration to expand Jan Schakowsky’s Covid 19 Price Gouging Prevention Act to include gas and energy profiteers and send the proceeds to families in need.
Better option number two would be to win the midterms by standing with the planet: impose a war tax on carbon profiteers and spend the proceeds on transitioning to renewables.
The shift to clean energy doesn’t have to go slowly. Electric car sales rose 43% in 2020 over 2019, and 108 % in 2021 over last year. Stocks in renewables are outperforming oil and gas right now. Tipping points tip. If anything good could come of this grim, ghastly time, this could be it. We have certainly hit the bottom of the gas and oil barrel.