House flails about wildly and ineffectually over higher gas prices

House Republicans, who face a bruising battle to retain their majority status this November, are growing increasingly desperate over high gas prices. Since there’s nothing they can actually do to reduce them, this translates into furious political maneuvering. With two fast-tracked bills this week, they sought advantage over Democrats. The first bill directs the Federal Trade Commission to establish a definition of, and penalties for, price gouging. This dumb idea, more or less stolen from Democrats, passed easily. The second bill would have eased (i.e., reduced environmental restrictions on) the permitting process for new refineries. This bad idea — even oil company execs don’t think refinery permits are the problem — was designed as a “poison pill” Democrats would have to reject, thus allowing Republicans to paint them as “obstructionists.” How this flurry of political PR will affect the November elections remains to be seen. How it will affect gas prices, or the longer term energy problem: not a whit.