Joe Biden and record high gas prices

Two Biden milestones: a national average of $5 per gallon for gasoline for the first time ever, and a 39.7 percent approval rating in the RealClearPolitics polling average, the lowest of his presidency. Gasoline prices certainly aren’t the only issue driving that low poll number, but they’re the only issue that’s plastered on roadside signs 24/7 across the entire country.

The president isn’t solely responsible for the price of gasoline, and there are plenty of disruptions to the global oil market right now that Biden can’t do anything about. But Biden’s energy policy would have the effect of locking in high gas prices in the future. If he gets his way, get used to $5 per gallon — or more.

Biden’s energy policy is based on the same logic as Germany’s, which tried and failed to engineer an “energy transition” to all renewable power through government management. Biden’s solution to high gasoline prices is to stop using gasoline. Electric vehicles for all. The same day the $5 average was in the headlines, the White House put out a fact sheet on its charging-station plans.

The problem for Biden is that for electric vehicles right now, the economics don’t work. Not only are many electric vehicles more expensive than most gasoline vehicles, they’re less practical to drive. An electric car gets fewer miles per charge than a tank of gas, and while it takes a few minutes to fill up a tank, even the fastest chargers take 20 to 45 minutes to power up an electric vehicle. Less powerful hookups can take hours. Electric cars may work for some people who can afford a second car or who only travel short distances. But they are simply not yet feasible as a primary car for those who take longer trips and cannot afford to pay a premium for electric. That means for millions of Americans a gasoline vehicle is simply a better product.

At what point do the gas savings become worthwhile? If you really want people to drive EVs, there are two different directions from which to approach the issue. The first, Biden is very open about: subsidies for EVs and charging stations, with the goal of lowering the costs of owning and operating an EV.

But there’s another side of the ledger. Even if EVs don’t get cheaper, they’ll become more attractive if gasoline becomes more expensive. The environmentalist movement thoroughly understands that.

In fact, if the goal is wholesale adoption of EVs, higher gasoline prices are probably the smarter way to spur the change. As Andrew Stuttaford wrote, the government encouragement of energy transition is “central planning lite,” and central planning, lite or otherwise, doesn’t work. Remember that Biden has lots of other progressive interest groups to balance: Build Back Better included an EV tax credit with preferences for cars built with union labor, for example. Mother Earth doesn’t particularly care whether UAW members at Ford or nonunion workers at Tesla built an EV, but you better believe Biden does.

Destroying is much easier than creating, and the environmentalist movement is pretty clear on what it wants. An article from the Sierra Club earlier this year said, “Experts agree that in order to achieve the administration’s climate goals and avert the worst of the climate crisis, there must be no new expansion of fossil fuel production or infrastructure.” Zip, zilch, nada.

It’s not just talk, either. Through the National Environmental Policy Act, environmental groups bring lawsuits against the government to halt any fossil-fuel expansion. The court process is supposed to be adversarial, but under the NEPA, if the government agrees with the environmentalists’ views, it isn’t. If lawsuits from interest groups can overturn approval of energy projects depending on whether the current occupant of the White House shares their political views, energy investment becomes a less sound business decision.

One major factor in gasoline prices is transportation. Transportation costs are one of the reasons why gasoline is always more expensive on the West Coast than the Midwest, for example. The most efficient way to move refined petroleum products is through pipelines — which the Biden administration and many state-level Democrats oppose as well.

Add it all up, and no matter what Biden says, Democrats’ energy policy would make expensive gasoline normal. Our European friends, who inspire many on the left, already have expensive gasoline all the time as a result of their own environmental policies. They layer in high excise taxes on gasoline as well, a proposal Democrats have been loath to adopt here. But the principle behind their actions is the same: Government knows best, and government must eliminate fossil fuels to save the earth. Expect similar economic results here — but unlike in Europe, don’t expect the voters to applaud.

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