Earlier this week, world class rhetorictocrat Michelle Bachmann added to her long list of unachievable promises, baseless statements and shows of ignorance that have littered her campaign thus far. While speaking at a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday, she made a promise to the crowd in attendence: "Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen." On the surface, that sounds great. According to AAA, the current national average for regular gasoline sits at $3.57 per gallon, while diesel fuel is running at $3.88 per gallon. Assuming that she was referring to regular gas, Ms. Bachmann is promising to reduce fuel prices by 44% in order to get gasoline back to late 2008/early 2009 prices.
If you're anything like me, stepping up to the fuel pump and having to brace for paying $50 or more for a tank of gas is not something you look forward to. If I were the type of person who took promises at face value and trusted that politicians would deliver, Ms. Bachmann's promise to cut gas prices nearly in half would be music to my ears. Unfortunately, that's precisely the opposite of how I do things.
To lower the price at the pump, one or many of the following would need to go down in cost: the price of a barrel of oil, the cost of refining that oil and creating gasoline from it, the cost of distributing the fuel to service stations around the country, and other factors. The cost of distribution is largely a product of the price of gas, so let's ignore that one. As well, the cost of creating gasoline from a barrel of oil is largely fixed and does not fluctuate significantly from day to day, so we can ignore that one too. That leaves just one factor worth discussing: the price of a barrel of crude oil.
Anyone who has studied simple economics knows that there are two basic factors which control the price of any good or service: supply and demand. Rather than recount my entire Microeconomics course for you, I'll assume that you understand the principles - all else equal, higher supply reduces prices while higher demand raises them.
This leaves Ms. Bachmann with two avenues to fulfill this promise...either increase supply or reduce demand. Unfortunately, we can immediately rule out increasing supply as a means to lower gasoline prices. When President Obama released roughly 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Oil Reserves in June, the increase had no impact on oil prices.
Even if President Obama had released the entire Strategic Oil Reserve, the story likely would have remained the same. Time and again, OPEC has shown a willingness to cut output of crude oil in order to push prices higher (see here and here, among many other examples). This means that any significant increase in output by the United States or other nations due to increased drilling, releasing of reserves or any other reason would likely be met by a similar reduction in output by OPEC, netting out to a non-impact on oil prices.
That leaves only one possible way for Ms. Bachmann to reduce oil prices: a significant reduction in demand. If she could find a way to reduce the world's dependence on oil, certainly prices would reflect that. Unfortunately, projections have shown that oil consumption will increase significantly going forward. So what could reduce demand? Well, that answer is crystal clear, and one that we saw firsthand only a short time ago: a large scale worldwide recession.
In the midst of the Great Recession, unemployment rose significantly. Less people working meant less people on the road each day, meaning less gasoline consumed on the whole. As well, many companies were forced to shut down or cut production significantly, meaning that there were less deliveries, shipments and general transportation costs. Again, less people on the road means less gasoline consumption. And less consumption means less demand, which creates lower prices. It's all quite straightforward, really.
But therein lies the rub...for Ms. Bachmann to "deliver" on this campaign promise, she would have to drive us back to the brink of economic disaster. I don't doubt that she might do this, mind you, which is the scary thing. And beyond that, it's amazing that she doesn't recognize the sheer absurdity behind her statement, even going so far as to stand by her pledge despite numerous news networks and economists detailing how ridiculous it really is.
Here's the point: these kinds of mistakes and ignorant statements are absolutely unacceptable for someone with this much support to be President of the United States. This certainly isn't the first ridiculous thing Ms. Bachmann has said. You can even read here or here for a sampling, or watch the embedded video below for one of my personal favorites.
And there are plenty, plenty more where those came from. It is completely frightening to realize that as a candidate, Ms. Bachmann has as much support within the GOP as anyone. My desire is to find substantive candidates to support, ones that run on real platforms with policies laid out rather than those who run simply on rhetoric. Bachmann's "Tea-Party" platform has no more substance than Obama's "Hope and Change" did in the last election. We've all seen how that turned out...Republicans, do we really need another candidate who is all rhetoric and no substance?
I don't believe there is much chance that Ms. Bachmann actually earns the GOP nomination for President, which is quite fortunate indeed. But the fact that someone so clearly clueless concerning basic issues and policy and history is able to gain this much influence is frightening indeed. I hope for all our sakes that people start to see Ms. Bachmann for what she is: a passionate, well-intentioned woman who wants to make things better, but has absolutely no idea how to do so.
And so on...