Bryan Caplan  

Democratic Candidates on the Price of Gas: I'm Not Making This Up!

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Foreword to Bryan's Book... If That Was Their Answer, What...

Democratic candidates were asked "What would you do to reduce gas prices?" Their answers, with one exception, should make any economist wince.

Here's Dodd, who leads with a long-winded complaint about foreign energy dependence and global warming, and ends with:

I've introduced a plan here that would require a by the year 2017 50 miles per gallon standard for our automobiles...

And a carbon tax, in my view, so that you make the polluting dependencies, the polluting fuels, more expensive and encourage them through the use of revenues collected, to move aggressively on developing the alternative technologies...

So a carbon tax is going to cut the price of gas? When pressed, Dodd added:
When the price of a barrel of oil gets beyond $40 a barrel, where there's plenty of profit here, that those dollars ought to be returned to the consumers in a rebate or plowed back into the research that would allow us to develop alternative technologies.
So I guess Dodd's solution is jawboning?

Next we move to Edwards, whose wants to make gas cheaper with a price-gouging witch-hunt, a cut in the oil subsidy, and stricter enforcement of clean air standards:

[T]here ought to be an investigation of the oil and gas companies by the Justice Department... I think we need states to enforce clean air laws against these refineries.

...But in the short term, can America finally stop spending $3 billion a year of taxpayers' money subsidizing oil and gas companies that already make billions of dollars?

Then there's Richardson, who's positively funny. He recommends a price-gouging witch-hunt even though he doubts it's happening!
RICHARDSON: Well, I was energy secretary and my state -- we call it the Clean Energy state. We have incentives for solar, wind, biomass, biofuels. We require renewable technologies, 20 percent of our electricity.

Here's my answer: What would help in the short term, give us -- the states -- the authority to engage in serious price-gouging investigation. That doesn't happen. But this is not the answer. The answer...

BLITZER: Do you believe they are?

RICHARDSON: No, they're not.

The answer is this. We need an Apollo program, Apollo, led by a president, asking every American to sacrifice, to conserve, that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil, which is 65 percent imported, to 10.

Biden, finally, seconds those who want to cut the price of gas by cutting subsidies, launching a witch-hunt, and raising fuel economy standards.

Out of all the candidates who answered, only one gave an economically literate, honest answer: Gravel. He bluntly explains that he wants to make gas more expensive by imposing a carbon tax:

Of course, that will raise the price of gasoline; let's be candid about that. There's nothing I would do as president to lower the price of gasoline right now.
Yes, Gravel wins the Democratic prize for economic literacy and honesty. Is it any wonder that he's dead last in popularity?


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/747
The author at Club for Growth in a related article titled The Gas Tax Hike writes:
    Bryan Caplan writes, "Democratic candidates were asked 'What would you do to reduce gas prices?' Their answers, with one exception, should make any economist wince."... [Tracked on August 13, 2007 8:21 AM]
COMMENTS (8 to date)
Stephen Smith writes:

He's also the only candidate who supports a radical restructuring of the tax code, in the form of the FairTax (essentially a 30% sales tax, the only exception being for businesses buying inputs, along with reimbursing individuals and households for the taxes levied on their spending up to the poverty level, or maybe a little higher). It would shrink the number of tax payers from every income- or wage-earning adult to only registered businesses, radically decreasing the size of the tax-collecting agency, eliminating any burden at all on non-business-owning individuals to file taxes, and eliminating tax loopholes that make it impossible for the average citizen to really understand how much of the nation's wealth is being taxed.

giovanni writes:

The Dodd quote sounds perfectly reasonable: A carbon tax would increase gas price and encourage alternative fuel development.

Where did he say that the carbon tax would cut the price of gas?

I don't understand his rebate idea, however.

TGGP writes:

How about Mike Gravel and Ron Paul run together? It'll be the Crazy Old Men Saner Than Everyone Else In The Room ticket.

Brad Hutchings writes:

There's something pretty inauthentic about Wolf Blitzer whining about the price of gasoline. And there would seem to be something rather presumptuous about assuming that it is desirable in the wider context of things to minimize the price of gas. But that's what Dems face and the audience they play to. Partisan Dems are infuriated that gas is so expensive now. The interesting thing about the jawboning approach is that if it actually worked, it would set up an interesting problem for the grass roots. Are they OK with paying more for gas so long as it goes to the government? Libertarian sensibilities come into play there, and the Dems leave themselves wide open to the charge of not actually solving the problem (high gas prices) with their tax and spend schemes.

The solace I take in Wolf Blitzer asking such inane questions is remembering 13 years ago when I denied him entrance to a VIP bathroom and made him leave a secure area to take care of his business.

Tom writes:

How about taxing those states that do not produce oil and gas? So, if you don't produce enough oil & gas for your own state, then you owe Texas & Louisiana monies to help clean up their state for the sacrifice they make for the nation.

Dan Weber writes:

Their answers sucked, but they were being asked a loaded question.

Gravel doesn't give a hoot if his answers make him unpopular, so he calls out the loaded question and answers his own. Good for him.

Sure, we need gas to be more expensive, but who in either party has the cajones to actually say that to the voters?

Eric H writes:

I live in Bill Richardson's state (NM), and I have never heard anyone call it the Clean Energy State. Perhaps the Dept. of Energy Grand Pork Barrel State (2, count 'em, 2 National Labs: Sandia and Los Alamos), where they study the hell out of the problem. But no actual clean energy. In fact, I think the Navajo Nation is working on a new coal-fired plant. Richardson is the beneficiary of Gov. Gary "Dr. No" Johnson, who vetoed every spending bill that came his way and left one of only two states with a budget surplus following the 2000 recession. Richardson is also the beneficiary of rising oil prices and therefore increased excise tax receipts.

Douglass Holmes writes:

The purpose of the question was to give the candidates the chance to be honest. Gravel was.
I have heard someone seriously suggest that we should impeach President Bush because of the high price of gasoline. I hope my friend pays attention to what the democrats are proposing.

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