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Port: The gouging argument about gas prices is bunk

The government can't control gas prices. We shouldn't even want them to try. But one thing the politicians can do is recognize that as long as we need oil, we should be producing it in the United States under American laws to the benefit of Americans.

Gasoline prices are displayed at a gas station following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Washington
Gasoline prices are displayed March 13, 2022, at a gas station in Washington, D.C., following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — Gas prices are up, so of course that means the politicians are working themselves into a high moral dudgeon about price gouging.

It's a story that's almost as old as the internal combustion engine.

This week the Democrat-controlled Energy & Commerce Committee in the House held a hearing about gas prices. Because these sort of hearings are about theatrics, and not pragmatic policymaking, they even gave it a title. Like it's a movie or something.

"GOUGED AT THE GAS STATION: BIG OIL AND AMERICA'S PAIN AT THE PUMP," is what they called the hearing , a bit of branding which telegraphed the fact that the proceeding wasn't about fact-finding. The politicians in charge of it had already reached a conclusion.

They weren't "hearing" anything. It was a performance.

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Even The New York Times is catching on to the shtick: "Politicians often criticize the energy industry for profiteering when gas prices surge and quietly drop their complaints when prices fall back," the paper reported this week.

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If we can begin to move beyond the rote dramatics of grandstanding politicians, maybe we can begin to have an honest conversation about energy.

It should start with the fact that oil is a globally-traded commodity, and its price is impacted by all sorts of variables.

Weather. Politics. War.

Each can have a dramatic impact on the price you pay at the pump, no matter where it's happening in the world.

We can't control the weather, and war is an unfortunate inevitability of the human condition, but we can do something about politics.

We can stop pretending like we can roadblock oil production with intransigent politics without having a serious impact on our quality of life.

The politicians spend a lot of time blustering about "price gouging" to distract from their role in creating the problem.

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"I'm not for drilling on public lands," is a thing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said just last month . Remember that the Biden administration's moratorium on developing federally-controlled minerals also, per the suit the State of North Dakota has filed over it , impedes the development of privately owned minerals as well.

A year ago, Democrats introduced a bill to “eliminate new fossil fuel production projects on federal public land and waters.”

A month after that bill was introduced, Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, demanded that oil executives commit to reducing oil production.

"Are you embarrassed that as American company that your production is going up while European counterparts are going down?" he asked them during another committee "hearing."

"Will you commit to matching your European counterparts to reducing the production of oil?" he demanded.

A month after Khanna's questioning, President Joe Biden was asking other oil-producing nations to produce more oil .

Go figure.

The government can't control gas prices. We shouldn't even want them to try. But one thing the politicians can do is recognize that as long as we need oil, we should be producing it in the United States under American laws to the benefit of Americans.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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