WASHINGTON — One year ago this week, I wrote a column titled "Crude Cruelty," which covered a jump in the cost of motor fuel and a corresponding spike in prices for food and rising unemployment. Government "experts" attributed the bad news to "supply disruptions" and "uncertainty" caused by unrest in Libya. Today Moammar Gadhafi is gone, but the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States is $3.79 — up 27 cents from a year ago. Unsurprisingly, mortgage defaults are up 22 percent, and orders for durable goods — cars, appliances, machinery and aircraft — are down. Our anemic economic recovery is being threatened. Gasoline prices are expected to top $4 per gallon by this summer.
None of this is good news for the incumbent in a presidential election year. So now, in an alternative version of college basketball's "March Madness," the Obama propaganda machine is on the hunt for someone to blame. It's not OPEC, the cartel that controls nearly 80 percent of the known oil on earth and is now headed by an Iranian. Nope, we are to blame. We're just not doing enough to reduce our need to get to work, feed our families, light our homes and cut consumption.
There can be no doubt about the inverse correlation between the availability/cost of petroleum and its effect on the U.S. economy — and our national security. When global oil producers perceive increased risk, prices invariably go up, and our economy contracts as the cost of delivering food and consumer goods increases along with the cost of Americans getting to work. Though the Obama administration acknowledges this irrefutable connection, its actions don't match the rhetoric.
The O-Team — infatuated with "Arab Spring" revolts in North Africa, Yemen and Syria and apparently blind to Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz — can't seem to figure it out. At a campaign appearance this week, the president said, "The biggest thing that's causing the price of oil to rise right now is instability in the Middle East." But instead of explaining how increased jeopardy inevitably increases risk — and therefore insurance and cost in the marketplace — populist shills for the White House blamed "Wall Street speculators" for pushing the price of crude oil to $107 per barrel. On March 6, the president announced that he has tasked Attorney General Eric Holder to "pay attention to potential speculation in the oil markets." But the blame game doesn't stop there.
According to the administration's flawed logic, those in the business of exploring, drilling, refining and delivering oil are also responsible for our pain at the pump. In a now-familiar mantra, he says, "Right now, $4 billion of your tax dollars goes straight to the oil industry every year — $4 billion in subsidies that other companies don't get." Set aside for a moment the financial perils of searching for oil in an unstable world, boring deep into the earth to what may be a "dry hole" and then shipping whatever is found through pirate-infested waters. Now try to ascertain how eliminating tax incentives for oil companies to take these risks would reduce the price we pay at the pump. If the answer eludes you, don't feel bad; you're not alone.
Added to these populist themes is the Obama obsession with "green energy alternative fuels." Last week, a day after Obama promised to buy and drive an electric-powered Chevrolet Volt once he is out of office, General Motors suspended manufacturing of the vehicle, citing "oversupply." In other words, American consumers aren't buying enough of the government-subsidized cars to make it worth keeping the production lines open. The Obama fix: a new government subsidy to compensate individuals and local and state government agencies "to make the shift to more energy-efficient cars."
Notably, Obama announced this new program during a campaign event at a Daimler truck plant in North Carolina, which makes long-haul Freightliner trucks powered by compressed natural gas — the least expensive, most abundant fuel, after coal, available in North America. Yet our supposedly "tech-savvy" president failed to mention an advance advocated by private industry to produce liquid methanol from natural gas for powering cars and light trucks. As former national security adviser Robert McFarlane noted in The Wall Street Journal last week, methanol is safer and less expensive than gasoline at current prices.
Best of all, not one cent of what we would spend to get to work in a methanol-fueled car would go to fund the jihad being waged against us. If Obama wants to see how well this works, he should make a campaign stop at any NASCAR track.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.