Record-high gas prices have become a driving issue in the 2012 election campaign cycle ... just in time for the 2012 election campaign cycle to kick into high gear. But the resulting rhetoric hasn’t exactly been truthful.

Record-high gas prices have become a driving issue in the 2012 election campaign cycle ... just in time for the 2012 election campaign cycle to kick into high gear. But the resulting rhetoric hasn’t exactly been truthful.


So just who is to blame? To hear GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich tell it, President Barack Obama is at fault due to his desire to limit drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.


Romney says Obama needs to fire what he calls the “gas hike trio” — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Chief Lisa Jackson.


Gingrich, meanwhile, has been promising voters he’ll drive gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon if elected. Santorum went even further, calling Obama’s environmental concerns “phony theology.”


“The underlying reason is because he believes in man-made global warming,” Santorum said.


But while the former Pennsylvania senator sought to cast off the idea of climate change as “political science,” the mounting scientific evidence is increasingly impossible to ignore.


So much so, in fact, that when well-known climate change skeptic Richard Muller set out to disprove global warming, the prominent physicist’s research ultimately led him to conclude climate change is undeniably, verifiably real.


To me, the stubborn refusal of people such as Santorum to accept scientific fact is much like those who continued to insist the world was flat long after it was proven to be round.


However, even if the U.S. allowed oil drilling in every corner of the country, the truth of the matter is the impact on gas prices would be negligible at best — and most likely, it wouldn’t affect the cost in the slightest. That’s because the oil market is global, and the factors pushing the price at the pump higher — including increased consumption from developing nations in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, and a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program that threatens to disrupt oil supplies — are largely out of American control.


In fact, according to an Associated Press statistical analysis of domestic oil production and monthly inflation-adjusted gasoline prices over 36 years, there was “no statistical correlation between oil that comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump. Over the last three years, domestic oil production has risen and gasoline prices rose sharply. In the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. production fell dramatically, and prices did, too.”


However, that doesn’t mean politicians are completely powerless to ease the pain at the pump. A good start would be to lower gas taxes. Another option — and one currently being discussed by the Obama administration — is for the Justice Department to speed up its efforts to crack down on oil market speculation, which is widely believed to spark volatility in the cost of fuel.


Increased fuel efficiency would also help — although progress already has been made on that front, a point Obama played up on during a recent visit to Ohio State University.


“America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year” since he took office, Obama said. “Even as the economy was growing, we’ve made progress in reducing the amount of oil we have to import because we’re being smarter, we’re doing things better.”


I realize alternative energy sources alone aren’t the solution for the short term, but I do believe a diversified energy policy that mixes increased investment in clean energy, supplemented with traditional energy sources, will put the U.S. on the path to long-term energy independence. In addition, fueling American innovation will create some much-needed jobs ... and it just may help propel us back to the forefront of technology, too.


City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com.