Was the 2001 recession caused by energy insiders, i.e., by natural-gas price-gouging in California in Dec. 2000?  And was the timing, occurring precisely during the vote-counting in Florida, simply a coincidence?

The current Republican administration has repeatedly tried to blame Democrats for both high energy prices* and for the recession.  The latest such effort has involved an attempt to backdate the start of the recession to 6 months prior to the changeover in administrations, i.e. 9 months prior to the date accepted by the professional economists, March 2001. 
*e.g., LA Times Aug 4 2002 A-18 "Cheney Blames Democrats for Nation's Pain at the Gas Pump"

View the data.  Energy price and GDP data since 1973 clearly show energy price increases leading into the past 3 recessions.
Energy price increases to utilities correlated with GDP change, annual data over the past 3 recession
In each and every of three instances since 1973 when the petroleum price rose past the 4000 mark, the GDP went into decline.   And in the most recent recession, soaring natural gas prices led the way.

A  closer look at the monthly/quarterly data:
  -- Energy Price increases to utilities correlated with GDP change, Jan. 1999 - Feb. 2002

There was indeed a dip in GDP change 6  months prior to the Bush takeover, coincident with a dramatic increase in the price of  natural  gas over the prior half-year.  And then an even deeper dip in the spring of 2001  when  the recession  is authoritatively thought to  have  begun, on the  heels of the spike in the price of natural gas that peaked in January 2001.

But just  prior  to this national price spike spike came a period of soaring natural gas prices in California, which coincided with the Florida vote count fiasco of 2000.
 -- Natural gas price spikes - California gas prices
In particular, the dramatic fall in prices precisely on December 12 and 13
, when the  Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Bush (Dec. 12), and Gore conceded (Dec. 13), certainly suggests that politics may have had something to do with it, i.e., both the price spike in California, and the recession that it seems to have caused.  At the least, it is a very striking coincidence.

USA Today, Feb.19, 2001,  "Wholesale prices soar in January ...  the largest rise since September 1990 ...  the spike in prices was mainly in the energy, tobacco and  automobile industries ...
LA Times, Feb. 20, 2001, "Soaring Gas Prices Will  Force Textile  Firm LA Dye to Close ... The move will put 700 employees  out of work."
LA Times, Feb. 20, 2001, "There's absolutely no question in my mind that  policymakers are not addressing the root  causes  of this crisis -- which is the natural gas link" per U C Irvine economics professor Peter Navarro.
New York Times, June 5, 2001, "... fingers are pointing in other directions [other than El Paso] too.  For example, the Southern California Gas Co. .. has reaped huge profits buying and selling gas in the last year ... "
LA Times, June 19, 2001
, "Phillips Petroleum Com and El Paso Corp. are set to bet &5 billion that rising demand will make it profitable to ship natural gas from Australia to California. ... Prices [for natural gas] need to remain higher than 1990s levels to support El Paso's plan and rival projects."
L.A. Times, Sept. 9, 02, "Sempra, Gas Firms Sued Over Pricing ...  San-Diego based Sempra ... and several other natural gas companies engaged in a concerted scheme to overcharge customers, according to lawsuits ... . ... In addition to Sempra ... are its two utility units, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co.; Reliant Energy; Centerpoint Energy; Coral Energy; WD Energy Services Inc., the U.S. based trading unit of EnCana Corp.; Aquila Inc.; CMS Energy; and Cantera Gas Co.
L.A. Times, Sept.  24, 02, "FERC: Judge Says Energy Firm [El Paso Corp.] Manipulated Market"
L.A. Times, Sept.  30, 02, "El Paso Corp's executives and employees have given more than $2 million to the Repubican Party and President Bush in the last 2-1/2 years.  Whether they will get a return on their investment remains to be seen."
L.A. Times, Oct. 14, 02
, "FERC's chief administrative law judge ruled Sept. 23 that  El Paso squeezed California's natural gas supplies by not running its pipeline at full capacity in 2000 and 2001, causing prices of gas -- and the electricity generated from it -- to soar."
L.A. Times, Oct. 18, 02, "A former top Enron Corp executive pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal conspiracy charge for rigging California's electricity markets during the power crisis .. "
New York Times, July 18, 2003, "The recession that began in March 2001 ended eight months later."

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