FoxNews.com is trying to dispute President Barack Obama's accurate assertion during the second debate that gasoline prices plummeted right before he was inaugurated due to the broader economic downturn, citing experts that "question" his claim. But one expert's argument has been called "ridiculous," and the other two did not dispute Obama's main point - that market factors, not U.S. energy policy, have propelled oil and gasoline prices upward since a temporary lull in early 2009.
In last week's presidential debate, Mitt Romney misleadingly claimed that gas prices have doubled during Obama's tenure. Obama correctly responded that gas prices plummeted just before he took office as the global economy experienced a massive recession. But Fox News, which had advised Romney to use this claim, remained in denial.
Bill O'Reilly tried to dispute Obama's claim by saying that if gas prices were low due to the recession, they couldn't be rising now because "the economy's still bad." Or as FoxNews.com recently claimed, Obama "impl[ied] that they are higher now because things are better." The U.S. economy was in free fall in 2008 and in many ways it is better off today than four years ago, but Fox is missing the more fundamental point that oil is a global commodity. Gas prices are almost back to the levels that they were prior to the recession because global oil demand is rising -- not U.S. oil demand, as Fox suggested. As Severin Borenstein of U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business explained in an email to Media Matters:
Oil prices increased due to changes in the WORLD supply/demand balance. Growing demand in the developing world, declining supply from Mexico, Venezuela, Iran, etc. Note that the highest oil prices ever were in June 2008, under Bush. Those weren't Bush's fault and current oil prices aren't Obama's. Talking about U.S. demand as the major driver of oil prices is missing the point that it is a world oil market...
...Two of the experts that FoxNews.com spoke to did not try to pin higher gas prices on Obama, and one stated "President Obama was right" about the recession lowering gas demand. But FoxNews.com also quoted a Weekly Standard article claiming "It took only a few months of Obama energy policy to drive up gas prices." The article, by agricultural commodity analyst Dave Juday, claimed that the spike in gas prices came partly as a result of "the threat of U.S. taxes and the cap and trade scheme." MIT's Christopher Knittel told Media Matters that "unless that quote is taken completely out of context, it is ridiculous!"
Even Kenneth P. Green of the conservative American Enterprise Institute said he was "not particularly impressed" by the argument that proposing cap and trade and the Keystone XL pipeline drove gas prices higher...
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