Presidential Debate: No Transpo Talk, Just Gas Prices and Oil Production

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 01:10 PM

US President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney debate on October 16, 2012 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Although the second question in Tuesday night's presidential debate was about gas prices, those hoping for conversation about transportation policy  -- or even the word "transportation -- were disappointed.

And while President Barack Obama once spoke frequently about the need to renew the country's infrastructure, that word also wasn't uttered by either candidate.

But here's what was talked about: a transcript of the conversation shows the word “gas” 30 times.

In response to a question about how much the U.S. can control gas prices, President Obama said: "The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades." A few moments later, he said that during his administration, "we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you're going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas."

Governor Mitt Romney disputed the president's numbers. "Oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent," he said, adding that "I'll get America and North America energy-independent. I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We're going to bring that pipeline in from Canada." This led to a spirited exchange about domestic oil production.

Later in the debate, the candidates sparred over the auto industry bailout, but during the debate the words “transportation,” “infrastructure” and “transit” weren’t mentioned once.

President Obama did use a “bus driver” as a salary example during a tax policy question; he also said he’d take the money the country has been spending on war and “rebuild America — roads, bridges, schools.”

No matter what their commitment to transit, one thing is certain: one of these men will be gracing a D.C. fare card in January.


Comments [2]


The obsession with gas prices is annoying, but most Americans would not understand a nuanced discussion of comprehensive transportation policy and land use as it relates to energy independence. I suppose the candidates will continue to bicker about who can produce more oil.

Oct. 19 2012 08:14 AM
Robert Wright

I've just moved from the UK, where fuel prices are much, much higher, so it's almost comical to hear the commotion about prices in the US.

The really striking thing, however, is that, even with the far higher level of fuel taxes in the UK, it's far from clear that the taxes are covering the costs that accidents, pollution, congestion and so on impose on everyone else. I blogged about the UK position as it affects cyclists here - .

In some US states, including Oregon, taxes aren't even covering the costs of repairing the damage that motor vehicles do to roads. So fuel prices ought, in a rational world, to be far higher than they are - or at least there should be some price mechanism, such as distance-based charging, to recover those costs. Sadly, I don't think such an innovation is coming any time soon.

Oct. 17 2012 02:34 PM

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