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Monday, April 11, 2011

LET THEM DRIVE VOLTS

"Under my plan... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."
-Candidate Obama

President Obama has in the past made it clear he prefers gas prices be higher. Like most academic leftists, he believes that cars are bad and destructive and people ought to drive less. Having higher gas prices will force people to drive less and move toward more fuel efficient options.

Recently, when asked about what he has in mind to deal with higher gas prices, president Obama responded that the questioner ought to consider buying a smaller, more fuel-efficient car; “you might want to think about a trade-in.” There is some merit to this idea -- if possible its usually wiser to find a less expensive choice to live when times get tight.

The problem is that this attitude seems to disregard the genuine difficulties that higher gas prices present to families, especially poorer ones. Even a more fuel-efficient car is expensive at the pump when gas prices push past $4 a gallon, and if you have a family, that Smart Car isn't going to fit them all in.

Especially problematic are parents with small children, as states require car seats for kids as old as 12. You can barely even fit a car seat into a subcompact, let alone several. President Obama seemed to recognize that a bigger family needs a bigger, less fuel-efficient car, but he quipped "You may have a big family, but it probably isn’t that big."

As Ann Althouse notes, perhaps this is not such a gaffe after all. Leftists have long wanted families to be smaller out of a baseless fear of overpopulation. Incentivizing smaller families by exorbitant gas prices might not be exactly unwelcome to someone like President Obama.

Another concern is that some people work in jobs that require cargo space and lots of room in a vehicle, and those itty cars may get great gas mileage but you can't haul landscaping equipment, farm supplies, and other goods in a Volt. Even the more fuel efficient hybrid and flex fuel trucks aren't as useful for this kind of work because they tend to be underpowered and cannot do the job hard working Americans require from their vehicles.

In any case, trading in your car for another is not really an option for many people even if they could get by on a smaller and more fuel efficient auto. Most people have the car they can afford, and the more fuel efficient a car is, the more it tends to cost. If you can only afford a 1987 Ford Ranger, then trading it in on a Honda isn't an option; you couldn't afford the payments even if you could get approved for the car loan.

Ultimately, even if everyone traded down for a smaller, more fuel efficient car and used public transportation more, that wouldn't really be much help. Not only would the greater burden on public transportation require higher prices and more buses, subway trains, and light rail cars (all coming out of increased taxes), but the price of gas doesn't stop at the pump.

When gas prices rise, they push up the price of producing and delivering everything at the market. The food you buy, the clothes you find, the products you shop for, everything has to be delivered from raw materials to finished products. All of that takes more fuel, and a small increase in gas prices causes a ripple effect, rising the cost at every stage of production and delivery until the prices of each item goes up.

Not only that, but plastics are made from petroleum, and as we learned in The Graduate, plastics are the future. They're used in nearly everything and all that plastic gets more expensive as gas prices go up. In other words, trading in the old clunker for a new hybrid doesn't really address the pain people are feeling from higher gas prices.

Pundits have pointed out there isn't a whole lot a president can do to lower gas prices, and there's some merit to that position; not that it stopped them from bashing President Bush last time gas prices went up. That said, there are some things that can be done, but as Conn Caroll points out here at the Examiner, president Obama seems to have gone out of his way to do the opposite: to drive gas prices up, not down.

Were this a Republican president, this story would be presented as evidence this man is out of touch with the American people, heartless even. Because President Obama is a Democrat it is being scrubbed out of press reports or spun as a helpful scheme for the environment. And like so many schemes of the left, that hurts the poor more than anyone else.

*This was originally posted on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

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