Energy, Public Opinion and Obama

President Barack Obama talked a lot this week about energy. He's been trying to position himself as being pro-energy on development.

For example, on Thursday, he was in Cushing, Oklahoma, emphasizing support for the portion of the Keystone pipeline project running from there to the Gulf Coast. In response, House Speaker John Boehndr, according to, noted, "Today he's out in Oklahoma trying to take credit for a part of the pipeline that doesn't even require his approval. Now this is what I'm calling the Obama energy gap... There's a big gap between what the president promises and what he talks about and the actions that he's taking."

Apparently, though, it's not just the Speaker who has problems with the President on energy.

On March 19, released a poll of likely voters, and it was reported: "On energy, 58 percent say Obama's policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices - and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil."

One cannot seriously argue against such views given that the President, for example, has opposed expansion of offshore and onshore exploration and drilling; refused to approve the Keystone pipeline expansion project; allowed his EPA to advance regulations that will make energy far more costly and do serious damage to U.S. global competitiveness; and pushed for increased taxes on energy producers.

This policy direction, along with loose monetary policy, has helped push up the price of oil and, therefore, the price of gas at the pump.

Those increases in gasoline prices have very real effects on the economy, including on small businesses.

Consider the results of a survey done by TechnoMetrica for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council released in mid-March 2012 on how small firms are impacted by higher gas prices:

• 72 percent of respondents say that higher gas pricesare impacting their business.
• 41 percent of small business owners said higher prices were affecting their plans to hire.
• 22 percent of small business owners have cut back on employee hours.
• 40 percent of small business owners have raised their prices.
• 43 percent of respondents agreed with the following statement: "My business will not survive if energy prices continue to remain high or increase further." (23 percent strongly agreed with the statement.)

Those are significant negative effects that obviously present serious problems for an incumbent. The question is: Will people be fooled by political rhetoric that seeks to distract from the reality of policies that work against more affordable energy?


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His new book is "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV.