IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Senate Judiciary Committee Markup
Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee markup on judicial and other nominations in Hart Building on Feb. 10, 2022.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images, file

Marsha Blackburn doubles down on a weird theory about gas prices

Marsha Blackburn's strange conspiracy theory about gas prices and the Biden administration isn't just backwards, it's also poorly timed.


Sen. Marsha Blackburn has been known to embrace some odd conspiracy theories, but late last week, the Tennessee Republican broke some new ground. Blackburn released a video claiming, in all seriousness, that high gas prices are the result of a deliberate Democratic scheme.

“Well, the Democrats have been trying to get $5-a-gallon gas for well over a decade — and it looks like they have now hit their target,” the senator insisted. “They feel like this helps them, moving to all electric vehicles, forcing you out of a gas-powered vehicle and into an electric vehicle.”

On Monday, I took note of how deeply odd this was, and evidently, Blackburn noticed. Yesterday, in a tweet responding to me, the GOP lawmaker doubled down on her conspiracy theory.

“Joe Biden’s policies have caused gas to reach over $5 a gallon. Now Biden is using his energy crisis as an excuse to implement his radical Green New Deal. This is not a coincidence. It’s intentional.”

As much as I appreciate the dialog, Blackburn isn’t helping her strange case.

Before we delve into the details, it’s worth pausing to note that no U.S. president, regardless of party or ideology, has direct control over what American consumers pay at the pump. It wasn’t George W. Bush’s fault in the summer of 2008, when gas prices were quite a bit higher in inflation adjusted terms than they are now, and it’s not President Biden’s fault now.

While we’re at it, let’s also not brush past the fact that a little common sense goes a long way: The Democratic incumbent’s approval rating is far from great, and critically important midterm elections are quickly approaching. The idea that Biden would “intentionally” do something wildly unpopular, without any related benefit, seems absurd because it is absurd.

But the substantive details are just as important. To hear Blackburn tell it, Biden has taken ownership of, and begun implementing, the Green New Deal. That hasn’t happened in reality.

Similarly, Blackburn has argued that Democrats have quietly hatched a scheme to force consumers to buy electric vehicles. That still doesn’t make sense: There isn’t currently enough supply of electric vehicles to meet such demand, even if it existed.

But perhaps most important is the degree to which Blackburn has this entire story backwards: As we discussed the other day, if the Biden administration wanted high gas prices, it would be doing pretty much the opposite of what it’s been doing.

Indeed, while the right likes to pretend that the Democratic White House has killed domestic energy production as part of a war on fossil fuels, Team Biden has done largely the opposite. As a Vox report recently explained, “Biden has done nothing to halt oil leasing. In fact, the Biden administration has outpaced Trump in issuing drilling permits on public lands and water in its first year, according to federal data analyzed by the Center for Biological Diversity.”

Overall, U.S. energy production is going up, not down, under Biden.

What’s more, Blackburn’s conspiracy theory isn’t just wrong, it’s also poorly timed: CNBC reported this morning on Biden issuing a new call to U.S. oil refining companies, pushing them to produce more in order to help alleviate prices.

“At a time of war — historically high refinery profit margins being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” the president said in a letter to oil companies today. ″[C]ompanies must take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel, and other refined product,” the letter added.

The Democrat added that he’s considering invoking emergency powers to boost output.

Blackburn would apparently have people believe that all of this is just an extraordinarily elaborate ruse. By any fair measure, that’s an unserious approach to a serious issue.