Ah, another conspiracy theory . . .
Drivers are noticing with suspicion that gasoline prices' recent slow decline started to reverse itself almost as soon as the politicians finished their concession speeches. Plainly Big Oil, the conspiracy-minded argue, was trying to rig the election for the Republicans.
Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, offered a typical assessment: "There was a political motive to keep gasoline prices low. Now that the election's over, we're going to see prices going up. . . . Oil companies are going to go back to artificially shorting the market."
I guess Court is standing up for consumers' right to concoct wild theories without evidence.
The facts, though, are that oil prices swing on global markets that are driven by hurricane forecasts, the Chinese economy, the violence in Iraq and countless other factors.
As we heard over and over this fall in the ads pushing Proposition 87, America relies heavily on foreign oil. And much of the world's petroleum comes from hostile nations like Iran and Venezuela. So Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez were taking a hit in the wallet to keep the Republicans in Congress? Sorry. It just doesn't add up.
But the conspiracy theorists aren't alone. A Gallup survey before the election found that 42 percent of Americans thought that the recent fall in gasoline prices was politically timed. Democrats were much more likely to believe in this dark cabal than Republicans.
The charitable explanation is that the paranoia was probably the product of being shut out of power in the federal government for the past few years. Some Republicans, after all, got a little loopy about the Clintons. Now that we've seen that the GOP is not going to rig the elections, then declare martial law and ship anyone who complains off to Guantanamo, maybe the Democrats will come to their senses and realize that the Bush administration is manipulating gasoline prices using the same deft hand with which it is bringing liberty to the Middle East.
Me again - the reality is oil and gasoline markets are GLOBAL and there is little the President or Congress can do.