May 15, 2006 3:48PM

Joe Barton — Economic Menace

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce committee, has surprised analysts by discovering yet more horrifically ill‐​considered ideas to tackle soaring gasoline prices. According to the trade press, the Republican point‐​man on energy is now working with Democrats to draft a bill that would establish a Strategic Gasoline Reserve. The Congressman would reportedly direct the feds to ensure that the reserve would be large enough to accomodate 5 percent of annual demand at the pumps.

The fact that Rep. Barton would look to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for inspiration is bad enough given the poor economic performance of that program. Worse, however, is the lack of any appreciation for the fact that a Strategic Gasoline Reserve would increase pump prices — the exact opposite of what Rep. Barton claims to want out of this bill.

Why? Because the feds would represent new buyers in the market, and they would be competing with consumers for tight supplies. More demand = higher prices. How much higher would depend upon the pace and degree of inventory buildup, but it would almost certainly be substantial once the buying began.

Question — why is this guy chairman of the energy committee?