In the second presidential debate of 2012 an attendee asked President Obama, “Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating ‘It’s not policy of this department to help lower gas prices.’ Do you agree with Secretary Chu, that this is not the job of the Energy Department?” The question went essentially unanswered as both candidates took the opportunity instead to promote their energy platforms.

The answer to this question may be simple, as Expert Joel Brown explains in a tweet: “The unanswered question answered: the DOE does NOT have the charge to lower gasoline prices. Its impact is at the leading edge, not retail.” Charles Riley of CNN Money further explains, “Politicians and the government, for the most part, have very little real control over gasoline prices,” except through measures such as tapping the strategic petroleum reserve.

With the government’s inability to significantly reduce oil prices, what policies might be pursued to alleviate pressure at the pump? What effect do gas prices have on the American economy? How well can the free market address the problem of high gasoline prices?