It will be interesting to see if President Bush can convince Saudi Arabia (and through them the rest of the OPEC oil cartel), to significantly increase production of oil, a move that would eventually lead to lower gas prices in the United States.
There's no question we need lower gas prices (even as legislatures and Congress look at raising gas taxes). The price of gas has a ripple effect throughout the economy, driving prices higher and eating into consumer pocketbooks. With more and more citizens having less and less "discretionary" spending money available, the entire economy is going in the tank. You're hearing more and more people, including economists, starting to use the "R" word -- recession.
But a reduction in oil prices could go a long way toward restoring the economic health of the country.
The question is, does Bush still have any capital left in the Mideast, and how interested are the oil producing nations in helping stave off a recession in the United States, one that could hurt them in the long run if they can see that far ahead. Among the world's leading oil producers, Kuwait, the gulf states and Saudi might be inclined to help. Iran certainly has no reason to do anything that would benefit the U.S., Iraq's production is only now starting to come back on line to a point where it could help, and U.S. relations with Venezuela are probably even worse that those with Iran. U.S. foreign policy in recent years has not helped our standing with several of the major oil producers.
But if Bush still has any clout at all in the Mideast, he may be able to get some production increases. The question then becomes, will it be enough to significantly lower gas prices in the United States, and what will those nations want in return?
In many ways, this could be the most crucial overseas trip Bush has made in the last three years. We hope he succeeds, because we need it desperately.
-- Kelly Everitt