Brad DeLong provides the most concise and correct analysis of the political economy of gas prices I've ever seen:That pretty well nails it. Dan then gives us some thoughts on why the price of gasoline is so special politically. They do sound reasonable but even Dan admits he doesn't know if they holdDemocrats are (because of the environmentalist wing of the party) generally in favor of higher gasoline taxes and higher gasoline prices--except when gasoline prices are high). Republicans are in favor of letting oil markets "work"--except when gasoline prices are high.
First, it's tied into the politics of the Middle East, which allows media coverage to always give it that extra political twist... though during the Cold War, the only sources for platinum were the Soviet Union and South Africa, but no one fretted about the political implications.He correctly points out that there is no such reaction when other commodities like copper go up but most people don't buy copper.
Second, oil is one of the few commodities that's subjected to a supplier cartel... though I don't hear anyone besides myself complain about, say, the diamond cartel.
Third (and by far the loopiest), gasoline is the one commodity in which Americans of both genders possess close to full information. It's therefore the one commodity that might mobilize the mass public into seeking a political solution.
As I pointed out in Politics, it's such a gas the politicians of neither party have been willing to do want needed to be done for the last 30 or 40 years with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter who was not reelected. Gasoline prices are very visible and politically sensitive.