Gasoline prices are often in yo-yo mode and the people strung out by it are retailers. Don't blame them.
Fewer people are blaming them, from our observation. Where gasoline price spikes once sparked claims of gouging, most folks now accept the reality that commodities prices — whether it's sugar, corn, wheat, gasoline or cotton — fluctuate due to market forces that are beyond the control of those who sell to end users.
Gasoline prices are starting to rise again after a fairly stable period. Conventional wisdom tells us gas prices should be dropping as the summer driving season and the demand it creates starts to wind down. Conventional wisdom can't explain why gas is priced at $3.49 a gallon today when it was $3.39 a week ago.
On the West Coast, the prospect of $4 gas is looming because of a refinery fire. Refinery shutdowns, along with Mideast instability and global demand variances, affect the price of gasoline. If the current uptick in prices continues into the fall, look for President Barack Obama to incorporate even more class envy rhetoric into his speeches — mouthing off about Big Oil's “windfall profits.” Obama himself was blamed for high gas prices by Republican presidential candidates in the past year.
In reality, there is little any president can do to influence gasoline prices in the short term. But blaming Big Oil is pointless. Increasing domestic supplies of crude oil and tar sands — something Obama is loath to do — can have an effect in the long term.
Fueling presidential debates this fall with class envy remarks won't bring the price of gasoline down any more than it would bring down corn prices affected by heat and drought. These are commodities subject to the vicissitudes of the market and the forces of nature.
We're paying more for gasoline. We should pay less attention to Obama's anti-fossil fuel malarkey.