In the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze,” there is an excellent bit of dialogue between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gregory of Scotland Yard, beginning with the Inspector:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

The curious incident of the quiet dog indicated that the mysterious man who stole the prize racehorse, Silver Blaze, was known to the dog, explaining why it didn’t bark.

In other news, I filled up the car and dropped over $50 to do so. As you can see from the photo I took at the time, the price for regular unleaded was just shy of $4 a gallon at the pump. Right now oil is above $110 a barrel. I remember when gas prices last spiked in the summer of 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama stated that he would have preferred a gradual adjustment to higher gas prices over the quick rise that happened. Here’s a clip of him talking about this in 2008, with some other news commentaries mixed in.

Did you catch the female reporter around 10 seconds in, stating that the Energy Department was forecasting $4/gallon gas prices for the rest of 2008 and into 2009? Do you remember paying that much? I don’t. I remember oil prices dropping like a stone about a month after this video was posted.

The graph on the top right was generated at metalprices.com showing the price of crude oil for the past five years. See that monster spike in the middle? That’s the same 2008 oil spike that drove up gas prices. Do you see how the price quickly dropped, ending up even lower than the previous low point on the chart? Just what could have caused that drop? Oil hit its highest price on July 14, 2008, the very same day that President Bush announced that he would, by executive order, lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. Beginning the very next day, oil prices began to drop and continued to do so for several months as the market reacted to the news of increased future oil supplies.

Now look at the graph on the bottom right, listing the crude oil prices since President Obama took office. Notice a trend? This is what the market looks like when the President reimposes a ban on offshore oil drilling less than a month after taking office, then places a moratorium on all oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The market reacted to the news of decreased future oil supplies by raising the price of crude oil.

Certainly there are other factors that also play into the rising oil prices, the biggest among them being the increased instability in the Middle East and the increasingly weak U.S. dollar in international markets. There’s no need to blame Pres. Obama for political instability in the Middle East (although others have done so), but I will lay the blame for a weakening dollar solidly at his feet. Pres. Obama and his fellow travelers on the political left have trashed the foundation of our currency with their prolific spending and inability to seriously handle the rising deficit.

As long as our dollar continues to weaken because of shortsighted policies made by liberals in government, and as long as Pres. Obama prevents us from accessing our own energy supplies, the price of crude oil and gas will continue to go up and up and up. In 2008, and in the previous years when gas prices soared, there were multiple news stories each day about rising gas prices and the people affected by them. But this year the same news stories have been few and far between. So what is the difference this time? Why the strange silence from the barking dogs of the news media?

It’s simple. The media is too busy wagging its collective tail at its master, Pres. Obama, to bark at him. And when you understand that, the silence is far from curious.

The political cartoon duo Cox and Forkum have taken on the current gas woes.

Gas Fumes

They also link to a piece from the Ayn Rand Institute written by Alex Epstein called The Myth of “Price-Gouging”.

The term “price gouging” implies that gas stations have an ability to forcibly inflict harm on us–but they do not. Any price we pay for a gallon of gasoline–whether $1 or $3–we pay voluntarily, based on the value of the gasoline to us. If we think we are spending too much on gasoline, we are free to drive less, to buy more fuel-efficient cars, to use carpools or busses, or to travel by bicycle or on foot. Gas station owners cannot force us to buy gasoline; they can only offer us a trade, which we are free to accept or reject.

But, one might ask, without anti-”price gouging” laws won’t owners of gasoline charge the absolute highest prices they can? Absolutely, and they have every moral right to do so–just as consumers of gasoline have every right to pay the lowest prices they can find. Gas station owners are not our servants. They are producers who spend money, exert effort, and assume risk to bring a product to market. They own the gasoline they sell, and like any property owner they should be free to set the terms of sale.

Since we pay the lowest price that we can find for gasoline (and never more than it is worth to us), and gas stations sell gasoline for the highest price they can get (and never less than it is worth to them), the price of gasoline is a reflection of mutually beneficial trade–the essence of proper interaction under capitalism. For a gas station owner to charge what the market will bear is no more “gouging” than it is for a computer programmer–or a cashier–to negotiate for the highest salary he can get.

A few quick links from today’s Drudge Report regarding the subject of rising fuel costs. In the first link, President Bush warns of a “tough summer” ahead because of the rising price of gas, and I know we will feel it this year. We are planning on a family vacation that will take us through five states, driving nearly 3,000 miles. And because we plan to rent a car since we can no longer rely on ours to make it through a long cross-country trip, we will most likely be getting something with worse gas mileage. Anyway, back to the President. The article summarizes him this way:

But even as the president stressed Saturday that the government was making efforts to protect consumers from price-gouging, he said there was little he could do in the short term to alleviate the impact of higher oil prices.

But there is something that President Bush and the government can do to help alleviate the pain of high gas prices. And he brings it up later.

Bush also blamed the higher prices on a shortage of refinery capacity in the United States, and also on an ongoing shift in fuel additives and mixes that has caused supply hiccups in certain areas.

If the government and the BANANA* environmentalists would allow the U.S. to build more refineries, we would not be operating at maximum capacity as we are now. We are still suffering from refineries that are not at full capacity after the onslaught of Katrina. And if we skip the silly idea of specific gas formulas for different regions, the marketplace could react to temporary local shortages quickly. But not everyone is upset about the high price of gas.

The daughter of the founder of Earth Day says she doesn’t think gasoline prices are too high.

Tia Nelson, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, said “we pay less for a gallon of gas than anywhere else in the world. And if we paid what the Europeans paid we’d wouldn’t be driving vehicles that got 12 miles a gallon.”

The unspoken belief is that she’d be OK with much higher gas prices if it meant that fewer people would be able to spoil the planet with their noxious gas fumes. (Ms. Nelson seems to like the idea of higher gas prices because it would coerce or force others into living a lifestyle of which she approves. She categorically refuses to consider the needs of American families with many small children, for whom an SUV makes more sense to purchase than three or four smaller vehicles. Hey, they shouldn’t be breeding like that anyway, right? Elitist snob. –TPK) And there are people, like University of Texas professor Eric Pianka, who speak with relish about global pandemics that would wipe out 90% of the Earth’s population. It appears Pianka is a fan of Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb. To sum their ilk up in a short phrase: there are too many of those people, and not enough of us. Spare me.

* BANANA = “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything”

I filled up the car again this week. As much as I would like to avoid the gas bill, driving to work is better than the alternatives of walking, biking, or riding the bus, so I will continue to pony up the bucks at the pump.

But the cost of gas has been a political tool for John F@#$%ing Kerry’s campaign. He has been hammering President Bush over the cost of gas pretty relentlessly. “George Bush has no plan, doesn’t address it, doesn’t seem to care that every American family is paying more to go to work, for the products that they get, to be able to get to school, to be able to do all the things Americans do in the course of a summer.” Yawn. OK, let’s do the math. My car holds 11 gallons of gas, and I fill it up about twice a month. Let’s round up the increase and call it an extra 50 cents per gallon. That means I would be paying 11 gallons times 50 cents times two fill-ups per month for a monthly increase of $11. This is less than the cost of two movie tickets, and much less than the price of dinner at a sit-down restaurant. Even with my current meager wages, I can’t weep too much over these prices.

However, the increased cost of gas does indirectly raise prices for me, since every good that needs to be moved from one site to another will see a cost increase thanks to gas prices. This can have a serious ripple effect on prices in the U.S., and nobody really wants to see inflation kick in.

But the rising price of gas is too juicy an issue to leave alone. Some Democrats have criticized President Bush for continuing to fill up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve while oil prices are higher than they have been in decades. Kerry has suggested that the Bush administration stop filling the SPR so the oil that would be going into it could be used to help reduce the cost of consumer gas. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle went even further. “We’re at 96 percent of capacity at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve today,” he said. “If we can’t draw it down at 96 percent, when can we?” Daschle conveniently ignores the purpose of the SPR. It is not designed to stabilize the U.S. oil/gas market, but it is for the use of the U.S. military in times of crisis.

It is interesting that Kerry, Daschle and others have been calling for the release of oil from the SPR as a way of adjusting the price of gas, but these same people screamed about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. If it would make a difference to release about 115,000 barrels of oil per day from the SPR, why was it that ANWR’s expected 400,000 to 1,400,000 barrels of oil per day (pick your study) supposedly would not have amounted to a “blip” in the price of oil and gas if developed? You can’t have it both ways, can you?

Well, you can if you are a liberal Democrat, and the press is on your side.

With the release of the doom-and-gloom propaganda film The Day After Tomorrow, which tells us human beings are despoiling the earth with their SUVs, you’d think some people would be cheering about rising gas prices. And you’d be right. Here’s a bit of what Gregg Esterbrook wrote in the New York Times on May 25th:

The federal gasoline tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, while state gasoline taxes average 24.6 cents per gallon. Had federal gas taxes gone up 50 cents a gallon 10 years ago, several things might not have happened or would have had far less impact.

The SUV and pickup-truck crazes would not have occurred, or at least these vehicles would be much less popular; highway deaths would have been fewer; and gasoline demands would be lower, as would oil imports.

To continue, the world price of oil would have been lower, since petroleum demand in the United States is the first factor in oil markets; greenhouse-gas emissions in this country would be lower; Persian Gulf oil states would have less influence on the global economy and less significance to American foreign policy; fewer dollars would have flowed to the oil sheiks; and the trade deficit balance for the United States would be smaller.

Before you nod in complete agreement with Gregg, remember that he is reflecting the thinking of the people who predicted global cooling on the first Earth Day, then switched their tune to global warming a few years later, and now are back to global cooling in The Day After Tomorrow caused by [insert ominous music here] global warming. Just once I wish they would stick with one prediction.

While I don’t plan on seeing The Day After Tomorrow any time soon, I have to admit it looks like it has some spectacular effects. One of the most riveting is the flooding and subsequent flash-freezing of New York. But let’s play a wee bit with the science of New York freezing like that. Let’s imagine a cube of water 100 meters on a side, ready to freeze at 32 degrees. How much energy needs to be pulled out of this block of water to freeze it? About 33.5 billion joules of energy. That’s a little less than exploding a ton of TNT, or the same as running a 60-watt bulb for about 20 years. And that’s just for a single block of water 100 cubic meters in size. Since I’ve not seen the movie, I cannot tell how widespread the freezing is or how much water is affected, but I can easily guess that it is many times the cube of water used in my little math problem. To freeze this much water, the energy equivalent of about a ton of TNT must be evacuated per each 100 cubic meters of water. Just where would this much energy go? To put it another way, the energy released from this block of water to freeze it is enough to raise the temperature of 70 similar-sized blocks of air from absolute zero (as cold as anything can possibly get) to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (boiling). The website for The Day After Tomorrow claims the possibility of a global Ice Age is “more truth than hype.” Yeah, right.

So what is really fueling the rise of gas prices in the U.S.? Environmentalists. We don’t have a oil supply problem as much as we have a gas refining problem. You can’t fill your car’s tank with crude oil; it needs to be refined. But while the U.S. has grown in the last three decades, not a single new oil refinery was built during this time. What’s more, thanks to the increasing burden imposed on refineries by environmentalists, the number of refineries in the U.S. has shrunk steadily. We need to do more with fewer refineries, and if something were to happen with even a few of these refineries, we’d really be in trouble. Since we can’t refine as much gas as we need, the bottleneck is creating an artificial shortage, and the shortage is driving up prices.

Another culprit in the high cost of gas is differences in gas formulations. Thanks to environmental requirements, Utah County has a different gas formulation from Salt Lake County, just 25 miles away. These different gas formulations cannot be shipped to another area. So if Utah County were to run out of gas, we couldn’t get some of Salt Lake’s excess shipped here. Imagine if you ran out of sugar in the local grocery store, but rather than calling the warehouse for another sugar shipment, you had to wait for the sugar refinery to make a new batch just for you. How stupid is that? But this is the situation we find ourselves in, thanks to wacko environmentalists who have forced the closure of refineries, prevented the creation of newer and more efficient refineries, and mandated the special formulation blends of gas for various areas.

President Bush could reduce this artificial shortage immediately by telling the EPA that all their regulations for separate gas formulations are null and void.