Skyrocketing fuel costs will lead to a winter of discontent, by James Bovard

One year ago, President-elect Joe Biden warned that Americans would have a “very dark winter” because of COVID. Now that he is president, Biden may give Americans a Valley Forge winter – a season that could be both brutally cold and bitterly expensive. That could produce a political disaster that surpasses all of Biden’s previous bungling.

At a CNN town hall in July, Biden declared, “The vast majority of the experts including Wall Street are suggesting that it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be long term inflation is going to get out of hand.” After Wednesday’s federal report showing that consumer prices are rising more than 6 percent a year, the White House is changing its talking points. On Wednesday in Baltimore, Biden confided to an audience: “Did you ever think you’d be paying this much for a gallon of gas? In some parts of California they’re paying $4.50 a gallon.”

But Biden’s newfound sympathy for victims of high prices won’t warm any homes this winter.

Natural gas prices have jumped more than 180 percent since September 2020, and that will spur increases in electricity costs. Home heating oil prices have jumped 115 percent over the past year. Fuel oil is up almost 60 percent from a year ago. The federal government forecast last month that home heating costs could rise 54 percent this winter — but heating costs could actually triple, according to some private forecasts.

Biden promised to “do everything in our power to stabilize the supply chain,” one factor in the rising prices. But regardless of the promises by White House aides, Biden has no magic wand to fix the problem. Biden’s unemployment pandemic bonuses paid people not to work, spurring labor force disruptions across the nation.

Pervasive shortages of truck drivers and other occupations assure that the current problems will multiply. The federal Energy Information Administration warned last month that diesel stockpiles — used for home heating oil and other products — are at a 20-year low. “We potentially could see shortages in parts of the country unless the Biden administration treats this as the emergency that it is,” Fox News recently reported.

Biden administration officials are insisting that the surge of inflation is “transitory.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen promised last week, “I expect that next year, many of the supply bottlenecks that we’re experiencing now in opening up our economy will recede.”

But the Biden infrastructure bill that Congress just enacted is expected to worsen inflation for key supplies.

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