The politics of high gas prices

August 12, 2008 8:26:05 PM PDT
John McCain and the Republicans say the U.S. needs to drill for more domestic oil, including offshore. Pressing for offshore drilling in places like California used to be political suicide - but not anymore.

With gasoline costing over $4 per gallon, McCain has made great strides politically by pushing for more domestic drilling, even offshore drilling. Barack Obama has backed away from his opposition to offshore drilling, and last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reversed her opposition to a vote on the issue.

Congressman Mike Honda stood this morning with activists from the California Democratic Party attempting to tie McCain to Big Oil and Big Oil's profits. Honda says he is still opposed to offshore drilling.

An ABC7 Listens poll shoes 56 percent of Bay Area residents also oppose drilling off California's coast, but that number may be softening.

"I was opposed to offshore drilling but I also started doing more research into it," poll participant Karen Ewart said. "I'm really torn."

Like 44 percent of those surveyed, Ewart believes gas prices are going to continue to go up significantly.

"This little dip we're having right now is just something to pacify us before the election," she said.

Ewart believes gas prices are being manipulated, and like 55 percent of respondents, she blames oil companies.

Just over half of respondents said that foreign countries that produce oil deserve a great deal of the blame. An even greater 65 percent blame the current administration.

The same amount of people said the blame also lies with energy speculators, but Severin Borenstein, head of the University of California's Energy Institute said the public has been told a lot of things that are more political than accurate. He said the idea that foreign oil producers are to blame is also flawed because most are producing as much as they can.

"Blaming the Bush administration has some traction in that for the last eight years we could have been doing a lot more, both in Congress and the White House, to reduce our use of oil," Borenstein said.

What the president and Congress could have done is to raise fuel efficiency standards on American-made automobiles. The poll found 40 percent of respondents believe automobile companies deserve a great deal of blame for the country's current energy problems.

"We're every bit as brilliant as the foreign auto makers, but the U.S. didn't change anything," Ewart said.


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