Missourians might want to tune out the barrage of political ads that flow from their dubious distinction of being both a presidential and hotly-contested Senatorial battleground. Yet they can't ignore the consequences of the policy decisions being made by their political representatives. One place they see those consequences firsthand is at the gas pump.

Gasoline prices in Missouri reached $3.59 last month, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report. Nationally gas prices have climbed about 10 percent during the past year and are close to doubling from when the president took office in January 2009.

Fluctuating gas prices are no surprise, and Americans know that prices can be affected by events — from hurricanes to Middle East turmoil — that policymakers can't control. However, energy policies are an important factor in the determining the long-term supply of fuel and the regulations that govern energy production and use. Ultimately, these decisions dictate the trajectory of fuel costs.

Missourians should take note that Sen. Claire McCaskill has consistently been on the side of those policies that make energy more expensive, from discouraging oil exploration to supporting crippling regulations on coal production and an effective tax on carbon, which would raise the cost of just about everything American families buy and use.

For example, McCaskill voted against the Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, legislation that would have restored the ability of American companies to seek energy resources and ensured an efficient permitting system. The inability of energy companies to move forward in the process of developing new energy supplies not only affects how much energy we will have in the future and future prices, but it also impacts prices today, as suppliers take into account their expectations for future costs.   

McCaskill has also been a supporter of cap-and-trade legislation. The term cap-and-trade and the exact process of how such a system would work, with companies buying and exchanging carbon permits, can be confusing. The bottom line for Missouri residents is that a cap-and-trade program would function as a tax on carbon. Its express purpose is to discourage the use of energy and release of carbon by making it more expensive. That means higher costs for gasoline, manufacturing, home heating and cooling —  and just about everything else that requires power.  

One analysis found that a leading cap-and-trade proposal (the Lieberman-Warner bill) would ultimately result in the loss of more than 42,000 manufacturing jobs in Missouri, reduce the total income of state residents by more than $2 billion by 2030 and leave Missourians paying 20 percent more for gasoline by 2025. McCaskill has acknowledged concerns about how this proposal would lead to rising energy prices but supports the concept anyway.

While Democrats haven't garnered enough support to pass cap-and-trade legislation, the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward in regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and greenhouse gas. Congress took up an amendment to block that move, which not only would be costly for the American economy and individual families but represents a power grab by unelected agency officials. McCaskill voted against it, thereby green-lighting the EPA's potentially massive new intervention into the American economy.

The EPA's efforts to impose new regulations on energy production — including coal power, which is responsible for 80 percent of Missouri’s energy — represent such a grave threat to the state economy that Missouri's AFL-CIO president, Hugh McVey,joined Missouri's Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mehan to denounce the move, writing, "The near-term future of our nation's and Missouri's economies is filled with uncertainty… Compounding our situation even more are the pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will both threaten jobs and increase costs on energy consumers in Missouri." They urged the EPA to "take a more reasonable, responsible approach." Missouri families, whose energy prices would soar under these regulations, might want to join their call for moderation.

Yet their current senator stands firmly on the side of the EPA's job-killing regulations and higher energy prices. Missourians might want to ignore the latest campaign commercial, but they shouldn't ignore how such policy issues will impact their financial future.

Carrie Lukas is a vice president of the Independent Women’s Voice.