Remember the 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, Sherrod Brown relentlessly jabbing Mike DeWine about higher gasoline prices? The criticism was hollow then. It remains hollow today, as Republicans turn the table and blame the Obama White House for gas prices now approaching $4 per gallon.

Rick Santorum points to the president’s “radical environmental policies.” Newt Gingrich promises a return to gas at $2.50 a gallon. John Boehner, the House speaker, recently told his caucus: “This is a debate we want to have.”

What they do not acknowledge is that this country has little leverage, realistically speaking, in the global market for gasoline. Drill more aggressively at home? The results won’t arrive soon. The truth is, much larger forces are in play, from the current turmoil in the Middle East to the expanding energy consumption of China and other emerging economic powerhouses.

The president correctly noted in a speech last week that the United States today is producing more oil than at anytime in the past eight years. His administration is pushing to expand oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The president badly missed the mark in delaying a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until next year. Then he faced a Republican deadline to rush the choice. Yet if he decided today, or three months ago, to proceed, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference in the price at the pump.

Republicans charge that the president has presided over a near-doubling of gas prices. That is true. At the same time, recall the state of the economy in January 2009, flat on its back, credit all but frozen, job losses at 750,000 per month. Better to recreate that moment to achieve the average gasoline price of $1.89 per gallon?

Consider another bit of Republican confusion. Santorum, Mitt Romney and others fault the president for failing to be tough enough regarding Iran. Santorum appears ready to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. Might such a bellicose posture, let alone an actual attack, stir up the trouble that would push gas prices even higher?

The decision to extend the payroll tax reduction already has paid dividends, the added money in paychecks helping to cover rising gas prices. Yet what all of this reinforces is how Congress and the White House have fallen far short in developing a comprehensive energy strategy.

To its credit, the Obama team has advanced on some fronts. It has launched improved fuel-efficiency standards, setting the bar at 54.5 miles per gallon, the rule to be completed this summer. The logic applies: Use less gas, and the higher price won’t pinch as hard. The president rightly talked last week about an “all of the above” approach, fuel-efficiency measures joining increased domestic oil production and the pursuit of alternative fuel sources.

What has been missing is a mechanism to bring coherence for the long term, starting with honest talk about spurring efficiency and other advances through higher gasoline taxes, or related incentives. Americans actually pay a relatively low price for gasoline, making all the more hollow the blame cast on the campaign trail.