The oil industry is to blame for higher gas prices

Illustration by Bailey Wood

Ethan Kuhstoss, Contributing Writer

We all recall those frustrating moments at the gas station, begrudgingly filling up our cars with fuel despite the price per gallon seeming to increase after every visit. It’s not the ideal situation, but we don’t exactly have a choice. We’re often left wondering who or what is responsible, yet there never seems to be a clear answer.

As gas prices remain a source of economic strain for the average American, the false narrative that President Joe Biden’s Administration is solely at fault for the situation continues to be pushed by right-wing media outlets and major oil corporations.

To justify this claim, unreliable news sources such as the New York Post have argued that factors including the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Biden’s opposition to the fossil fuel industry have caused the rapid inflation in gas prices.

This is an inaccurate portrayal of current affairs, conveniently excluding the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry, particularly major oil companies, while emphasizing the missteps of the president. In reality, Biden’s only shortcoming is that he has not been more aggressive against the oil industry.

Gas prices fluctuate regardless of policy changes

As a prerequisite to this discussion, it is important to establish that the oil market experiences constant changes irrespective of the president’s actions.

Under former President Donald Trump, for example, gas prices dropped greatly despite no drastic policy changes concerning America’s production or purchasing of crude oil. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, factors such as “falling demand, rising supply, and diminishing storage space” led to crude oil actually trading at a negative price on April 20, 2020.

Just as Trump should not be praised for reduced price of oil during the end of his term, Biden should not be blamed for the increased prices that have resulted from higher domestic demand and the war in Ukraine. In fact, most of the troubles at the gas pump can be attributed to the capitalist greed of major oil corporations.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened gas inflation

The dishonest campaign of the fossil fuel industry began only 12 hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The same day as Putin’s military offensive, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the interests of 600 oil companies, released a four-step plan to unleash American energy.

The API’s intention with this plan was to capitalize on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, using the fluctuation of Russian oil exports to justify their requests for unobstructed business ventures.

Additionally, the API emphasizes the dangers of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on America’s energy security. Despite Russia’s oil only accounting for about 8% of America’s imports, Big Oil insists that rolling back federal regulations and increasing domestic drilling permits is essential for affordable prices at the pump.

This a perfect display of disaster capitalism at work; fossil fuel corporations cash in on tragic events, spinning narratives to bolster their image as an essential service to those in need. In this situation, the API demands unobstructed efforts to combat Russian aggression and its economic consequences.

The claim that existing federal restrictions on oil drastically increase prices and indirectly endanger Ukranians is not consistent with reality. Over 90% of onshore oil production occurs on non-government land and of the remaining 10%, there are millions of pre-approved acres for drilling. With over 9,000 readily available permits, the API already has every opportunity to achieve their goals of increased production and distribution.

In fact, oil companies could continue drilling at the current rate for the next 10 years without any additional leases. With the clear dishonesty of oil companies, it is apparent that they are only abusing the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine to ensure maximum profitability and longevity for their own bottom lines.

Renewable energy is the solution, and the future

With the demand for regulation rollbacks despite oil companies reaching record profits, it is clear that nothing will ever be enough to satisfy the deep pockets of fossil fuel CEOs. To ensure the sustainability of the planet and energy prices for consumers that accurately portray market values, the best alternative is to shift towards renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and similar forms of power.

Rather than appeasing the insatiable demands of rich fossil fuel executives, America should follow in Germany’s footsteps and aim for 100% green power by 2035, using Russia’s aggression as the incentive to finally shift towards a system that is more favorable to consumer prices, economic stability and the health of the environment.

Perhaps a day will come when our society and modes of transportation are entirely dependent on these sustainable energy forms, and the staggering increase in gas prices will cease to be an issue for the average American.

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