STARKVILLE — Over the last 30 years, the highest U.S. gas prices were recorded at $4.114 per gallon by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2008 as the nation struggled in the Great Recession. Thankfully, we’re not back to that level – yet.

But the EIA has posted national average gas prices in the $3.384 range in recent days. That’s the highest average price per gallon since the $3.812 posted in October 2012.

Because of Mississippi’s status as a producer in the Gulf Coast energy market and the proximity to Gulf Coast oil refineries, state gas prices have traditionally trailed the national average price per gallon for gas. That’s still true, but state gas prices averaged $3.065 last week.

That’s well over a $1 per gallon more at the pump than prices posted a year ago.

While the traditional consumer behavior has produced higher gas prices in the summer and lower prices in the fall and winter, that hasn’t been the case so far this year.

The respected Kiplinger Economic Forecast for energy markets had this assessment on Oct. 26 as penned by Jim Patterson: “Drivers continue to see the highest gasoline prices in about seven years, with little relief ahead. The national average price of regular unleaded is up to $3.39 per gallon, up a nickel from last week and more than a dollar higher than this time last year.

“The strong global recovery in oil demand, coupled with a slower rebound in oil production, has pushed up crude oil prices, which in turn means higher prices at the gas pump. We look for a small dip in gas prices by year-end, but even that would leave motorists paying over $3 per gallon, on average.

In some markets, prevailing prices will remain closer to $4. Diesel is also up sharply, now averaging $3.61 per gallon. That adds to rising freight shipping costs, given that most goods travel on trucks and trains powered by diesel.”

Along with a fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, Mississippi’s senior U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker laid the blame for soaring energy price squarely at the feet of Democratic President Joe Biden:

“These rising gas prices are a direct result of President Biden’s energy agenda. Since taking office, Mr. Biden has systematically dismantled President Trump’s policies that helped the U.S. become energy independent.

In his first week, President Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which would have brought oil to American refineries and supported up to 11,000 jobs. Later, he cut off the expansion of a tremendous source of American oil and natural gas by suspending new drilling leases on federal lands and waters.

He also rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, which will kill energy jobs while doing little to protect the environment.

“Democrats in Congress have plans to escalate this assault on American energy. Their massive tax-and-spending proposal would include “Green New Deal” style tax hikes and other restrictions on traditional energy sources, which would likely result in higher energy costs for American households,” Wicker said.

The economic facts about higher gas prices suggest that Capitol Hill Republicans may be laying the blame on Biden a bit thickly. In 2020, the global pandemic with reduced travel and lockdowns resulted in high supply and low demand for fuel. OPEC reacted to that with reduced production. In 2021, the economic recovery and relaxed or eliminated travel restrictions re-established high demand for fuel, and prices rose.

Energy analysts also throw Hurricane Ida and supply chain obstacles into a less-partisan explanation for high gas prices.

But where Wicker and his GOP colleagues are likely onto something politically lies in the post-Virginia gubernatorial election analyses of liberal media voices like The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd and Democratic operative James Carville.

They agree that Biden and the Democrats are in trouble heading into 2022.

Carville talked about how Democratic “wokeness” derailed the party’s message in Virginia. Dowd wrote this revealing observation: “While the Democrats wallow in a family food fight, Americans are still stressed and exhausted from the whole Covid ordeal, confronting high gas prices and stymied from getting the appliances and Christmas toys they want.”

At $3.40 a gallon for gas, the “Green New Deal” touted by the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party is an extremely tough sell. In the Gulf Coast oil patch, it’s a virtual “no sale.”

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

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