ONLY INHOFE KNOWS THE SECRET REASON FOR RISING OIL PRICES…. I suppose it’s possible that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is secretly a liberal Democrat, on an underhanded mission to make Republicans look ridiculous.

Sure, it’s unlikely, but it’s arguably a credible explanation for developments like these.

A senior US senator on Thursday ruled out violent unrest across the Middle East as a main cause of surging oil and gasoline prices, placing the blame instead on plans to curb greenhouse gases.

“A lot of people are saying that the gas prices that are going up are a result, partially, of what’s happening over there. That isn’t the real problem,” said Republican Senator James Inhofe, his party’s senior member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and a climate change skeptic.

Inhofe said that “the real problem” was President Barack Obama’s efforts to enact a cap-and-trade plan to curb emissions of greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for global warming.

In case this wasn’t quite clear enough, the odd Oklahoman added, “My message today simply is the higher gas prices are simply a product of this administration’s goal.”

There was no indication he was kidding.

Look, there’s no great mystery here. Oil prices started going up sharply as unrest in the Middle East grew. This isn’t controversial. Ask literally anyone in the industry or even on Wall Street — regional turmoil = higher gas prices.

For that matter, the notion that cap-and-trade — which was originally an idea Republicans loved, by the way — would cause oil prices to rise this much is completely unsupported by reality.

But even if we put these pesky facts aside, Inhofe would have us believe that we’re paying more at the pump because of an Obama administration policy that hasn’t passed, and can’t pass anytime soon. This senator seriously believes a White House “goal” that no one thinks has any chance at all is the primary cause for higher gas prices.

Indeed, he not only believes this, he’s willing to repeat the argument out loud, in public, on the record.

Keep in mind, Inhofe isn’t just a strange guy on Fox News or right-wing talk radio; he’s the leading Republican senator on the Committee on Environment and Public Works. If the GOP takes back the majority next year, he’ll be chairman.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.