Americans historically have favored low energy prices, even though those low prices are partly the result of direct and indirect subsidies paid for by taxpayers. They seem to think low gas prices are guaranteed by the Constitution, along with the right to arm bears and unlimited free speech for corporations but not pipeline protesters.
In a poll conducted last week by Reuters, 80% of respondents — including solid majorities of Republicans and Democrats — said they support the idea of not importing any oil from Russia, even if that leads to higher gas prices at the pump. In 2021, the US imported an average of 209,000 barrels per day of crude oil and 500,000 barrels per day of other petroleum products from Russia, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association.
Please Sit Down Before Reading
Are you sitting down? Here’s news that might shock you. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on Thursday proposed bipartisan legislation to ban Russian energy imports in response to the invasion of Ukraine, calling it a counter to Russia “weaponizing” energy. Manchin, you may recall, won’t lift a finger to fund electric vehicles for the US Postal Service, protect voting rights for minorities, or preserve a woman’s right to choose how to manage her own body, but he is at the forefront of this new legislation. One has to wonder what is in it for him, as he obviously doesn’t care a flying fig leaf about his constituents.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday, “We are looking at ways to reduce the import of Russian oil while also making sure that we are maintaining the global supply needs out there.” Biden has been getting hammered because inflation has spiked and prices at the pump have risen under his watch. Democrats, with good reason, are dreading an election disaster this November and eager to avoid angering voters.
There is, of course, reason to be skeptical about a poll that says people are OK with higher gas prices. They probably think the increases will last a week or two at most. Once people find they are spending $100 or more to fill the tank of their Stupid Duty, the era of good feeling could evaporate quickly and turn into the blind rage that is the hallmark of reactionaries today.
Gas Prices Are Rising
The US imports about 20.4 million barrels of crude oil and refined energy products a month from Russia. That’s about 8% of US liquid fuel imports, according to the Energy Information Administration. There is no direct correlation between those imports and gas prices, but if one assumes an 8% rise in the price of gasoline — which is $3.78 a gallon today, according to CBS News — gasoline could hit $4.08 a gallon soon. Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, says gas could hit $5.00 a gallon in some US cities by the end of this month.
How long will this bipartisan era of good feeling last? That’s anyone’s guess, but if you said, “A few weeks at most,” you are probably right. Moral outrage could be overwhelmed by gas price fury in a heartbeat. Americans may be sending boatloads of “thoughts and prayers” to the people of Ukraine, but their tolerance for high gas prices will be short lived, if history is any guide.
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