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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Return of “Drill, Baby, Drill?”

Spiking world oil prices, mainly attributable to the instability in the Middle East, are helping (and I wouldn’t use a stronger word, given the well-known propensities of the oil industry to take advantage of news on oil prices to disproportionately jack up U.S. retail prices and harvest higher profits) boost pump prices.
Can we now expect a return to “Drill, Baby, Drill” rhetoric from Republicans who want to promote the utterly false belief that we can somehow divorce the domestic petroleum market from global markets by expanded U.S. production?
Maybe, but thanks to memories of the BP spill, Republicans are a little hesitant to cry for expanded offshore drilling. For one thing, there are a lot bigger economic problems facing the country and its citizens than $4 gasoline. As the New York Times‘ Caucus blog explains:

[T]he political dynamics surrounding oil exploration are very different in 2011 than they were in 2008, making it less obvious that Mr. Obama’s Republican challengers can use the issue to their advantage.
And despite the consumer pain, most economists from across the political spectrum say that they do not yet expect the price of oil to do significant damage to the economic recovery in the coming months.

Still, the web page of American Solutions, the Newt Gingrich-created group that originated the 2008 “Drill Here, Drill Now” campaign among Republicans, is full of daily attacks on Obama for allegedly abetting gas price increases through his stubborn opposition to maximum domestic oil drilling.
As the 2012 presidential cycle warms up, it wouldn’t be surprising if Gingrich and/or some of his other potential rivals raise the old battle cry again, particularly in states where there’s no immediate fear of the consequences of expanded offshore drilling. It’s not as though anyone in today’s GOP is going to object to dependence on fossil fuels out of concern for global climate change.

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