Despite the best efforts of some in the media to make the public dumber, word is slowly trickling out that the President and Congress really don’t control the price of gas:
Federal policymakers have few options to lower gas prices in the short-term, according to energy analysts.
The recent run-up is fueling election-year political battles and thrusting White House energy policy into the spotlight, with Republicans blaming President Obama and the White House working hard to deflect criticism. As of Friday, gasoline was averaging $3.75 per gallon nationally, according to AAA.
But because gas prices are tethered to oil prices, which are set by global markets based on a slew of complicated factors, energy experts say there’s not a lot U.S. lawmakers or the White House can do, at least in the short term.
“Anybody who says they can affect prices in the next two or three months isn’t being honest,” Robert Kaufmann, chair of the Department of Geography and Environment at Boston University, said. “We’re part of the world market.”
So depressing we go through this every election.
I thought the prices were going up because of the Memorial Day holiday is coming up. At least that’s what they said was the reason every other spring.
@cathyx: Usually that starts about a month out. This oil shock has several factors, most of which are outside direct US control.
I hate to say it because fracking is evil, but our best intermediate hope until we get solar and electric cars everywhere is natural gas. But that will take a HUGE infrastructure investment which we should have started ages ago.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
There is a way, and that is US legislation to regulate the speculators. It is the only thing that scares them, and the GOP running the House has pulled that card from the deck. Nothing else will work, ie windfall profits, sternly worded letters nor presidential speechifying. Let dems get back the entire government, and gas prices will drop like a lead balloon, just like it did last time. It is still going to be higher than it has been for most of our lives, legitimately, with a recovering economy, peak oil, and all that kind of shit, but not through the roof
@Yutsano: Yes, I know the real reason for the prices going up. You need to hone your snark detector some more.
ETA: And the Memorial Day excuse never made sense and was just an excuse to raise prices.
And so, presumably, the converse of this is that anyone (like President Obama!!!) who says that they can’t affect prices is, therefore being honest?
Works for me: though Newt Gingrich still seems to pushing that old “$2.50 gas” wheeze as a campaign tool. And, sadly, he hasn’t been laughed off stage just yet…
I thought the President only has power over gas prices if there’s a D after their name.
I don’t believe that idea was pushed and debunked all that much in 2008. The big story for the right then was that drilling will fix it, and the President can make it happen. It birthed a motto that swept Palin into the spotlight.
As long as you think drilling is the problem, you will never understand that the President can’t fix it by himself. The media can start to do their jobs or whatever, but people who put faith and tribe above all else will never understand.
Well, the government could buy the oil from the drillers at market rate and sell it to the refiners at $10 pbbl, and demand that gasoline retail for a cap of $2.50 and that probably would make everyone happy.
@Suffern ACE: Pinko.
Obama needs to do something about this RIGHT NOW!
If we would just drill for gas, oil and coal everywhere, then things would be A-OK!
@muddy: I was going to call him Newt Gingrich, but where gasoline is concerned, they seem to be one and the same.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
Nationalize our oil industry, it is a matter of national security, and only way to be sure.
Then go all out for alternative fuels.
Use horse drawn buggies for puttering around town. And Sunday prayer meetings.
On this issue, I am certifiable commie. emphasis on certifiable.
@cathyx: Actually, the Memorial Day excuse makes perfect sense if you understand refining.
During the winter, we drive a bit less, but the north needs home heating oil. You can get more of that out of a barrel of oil if you change the refining ratio away from gas. So during the winter, the refineries run a different refining formula than they do during the summer. Somewhere in April/May is when they shut down refineries to do the changeover, which takes some supply out of the market.
A barrel of oil doesn’t contain a fixed amount of gas, heating oil, diesel, etc. Each of those can be adjusted to a relatively large degree, and refineries do change their setup periodically, but each spring and fall they do a large seasonal changeover, and that changeover takes enough time that you can measure it in gas supply, and therefore prices.
@Suffern ACE: Hmm. 20 million barrels per day, at $120 bbl avg. = $2.4B per day. And sell it for $200M. So the US would take a loss of $2.2B per day = $730B in taxpayer money lost per year.
It’d be cheaper to invade Iran.
Odie Hugh Manatee
What? They say that if the President says “Drill here, drill now and drill, baby drill!” then the gas doesn’t instantly appear at our local pumps?
Duh. But then again, I’m not infected with the brain-eating disease that is the Republican party of today.
I love pointing this out to local wingers and it pisses them off every single time. It royally roasts their shorts when some longhair like myself easily destroys their simplistic talking points.
@Martin: Well, I’d pay for it by a three year suspension of medicare payments. I’m pragmatic when it comes to guaranteeing oil company profits.
Actually, yes it does.
The only question is how much of that barrel ends up as each component you describe. And the distribution between components is definitely defined by season – you had that part right.
I torture myself every night by watching the local nightly news, where I learn that rising oil prices are all Iran’s fault. No mention of Wall Street speculators. Sigh.
An interesting research project would be to see if there is any correlation in price increases or decreases depending on whether there is a Republican or Democrat as president. Just based on a very cursory look, it seems like gas prices normally go down in the fall but there are several notable exceptions when Clinton and now possibly Obama were in the White House. Was this true in 1980 also? And gas prices were plummeting in 2008, though no one voted based on that because everything else was going to hell too. How about in mid-term years?
I’m sure the connection isn’t as strong as it seems to me, but it would still be interesting to check.
@Martin: I also agree. We are seeing an earlier transition this year because the winter has been mild and there was no reason to continue to manufacture heating oil if it going straight to holding tanks.
I wanted to hit Jay Rockefeller over the head last week when he starting nattering about releasing the strategic reserves. There is no supply shortage, so what is that supposed to do?
@khead: A certain amount of crude oil is burned to provide energy to distill and refine the various products for the different markets (car gas, diesel, aviation fuels etc.). Depending on the mix required for the time of year it can take more or less energy to actually do the refining but you don’t get a barrel’s worth of product(s) from a barrel of oil.
Of course Not GOPer Cole fails to inform as usual. Just cuts and pastes then talks about what his fat lazy cat did today.
All you gotta do is post a chart of world vs US oil prices for the last 50 years. Anyone with a 5th grade education can see within about 5 seconds that the US has never been able to control oil prices.
Return of the tire air gauges?
The Republicans showed how to control gas prices, simply tank the world economy and the gas price will follow.
OT, BP is paying out big bucks.
Another words, we want the President to tell us he has answers that we know he doesn’t have and lie to us to give us ideas that we know won’t work, because it shows leadership or whatever.
@Soonergrunt: I miss my dad at times like this, he’d whip out his slide rule and figure it out the the cent. I remember in the 70’s how mad he got about the difference in price between leaded and unleaded at the pump and the difference in what it cost to produce, which was much less. Or how the price would instantly jump up at something in the news when the gas at the pump had been paid for 6 months ago, and how it never went back down in the same way.
Talk about pink, he’d be red-faced. I like hearing the informed commenters on this topic, reminds me of him.
Worked for Reagan.
Hey Daaling troll, you forgot to include a link to your own informative blog where you lay these facts out! Kthxbai.
It gets better.
I posted my hometown paper for a reason. Those folks have screamed – repeatedly – about getting Obama out of their business. Usually it involves “keeping Obama out of the coal business” or some stupid shit like that.
The same folks, however, have no problem with begging Obama for any and/or all kinds of assistance in other circumstances. See LIHEAP, for example.
I wanted to puke after reading that gas editorial.
@kvenlander: What you don’t believe me? LOL. My god the intelligence level around keeps getting lower and lower.
So you are part of the drill baby drill crowd! Ha. So next I suppose you are going to tell me that Greenwald and Kucinich have the solution?
Well, the public is pretty dumb, especially when it comes to believing something that they so, so want to believe. A liberal friend passed on to me a conversation some conservative friends of his in Mississippi were having on Facebook. They totally believe Newt Gingrich can lower gas prices to $2.50, in fact one said $1.50 is doable! And Newt’s just so smart, of course he can do it!
I am curious why no one ever asks New exactly HOW he plans to do this …
@Viva BrisVegas: President Mondale would like to remind you that there are no consequences to telling the truth during a campaign year.
If Obama did somehow lower the price on his own, they would just cry and whine that he was trying to bribe and trick people.
@Southern Beale: I hear Newt can overthrow the Iranian government and install something we can work with in a few months. Ever the realist, Romney says it will take a little while longer. But all agree that the fact that Obama has failed to end 30 years of Iranian tyranny over the US is due to his lack of creativity and manly use of his cudgel.
Polar Bear Squares
Sigh. This was a rotten time to stop sniffing glue.
My wingnut friends are blaming it all on Qualitative Easing.
And no I’m not joking.
I think we should all praise Cleek on a regular basis. The pie filter works wonders for my blood pressure, keeping me from having to remind myself not to read morons like daaling and wilfred who seemingly are in this only to stir shit.
It depends entirely on the make-up of a particular barrel of oil. All crude is not created equal and what you can get out per barrel is not remotely the same. Refiners take in a mix of what meets their needs at the downstream of refining and delivery. This does requite a pretty high level of forecasting.
No they can’t do much about the price oil, but yes they can influence the price of gas.
It’s about regulating refineries, so they don’t all shut down at the same time. It’s about lack of competition at the pump. How about a tax on gas exports to make them think twice about shipping it offshore?
@Southern Beale: I have friends who drive Ford F150s, in New York City, for no reason except they want to, and they want to pay $2 gas, and they want Obama to do it, and they don’t want to hear it can’t happen.
I tell him “as long as you drive that car, you’re going to be paying through the nose, deal with it” and they don’t want to hear it, cause I’m some freedom-hating hippie who wants to get rid of those trucks and Obama is purposely keeping gas prices high so they’ll be forced to, but they never will, they’ll just elect Romney to stick to Obama’s and liberal hippies trying to make them get rid of their trucks.
Americans want their cake and eat and it too and “leadership” is telling Americans they can have their cake and eat it too.
No, it not. The oil that is refined in the midwest can’t get to the east or west coasts. The problem isn’t the refineries shutting down at the same time or an inconvenient schedule. It’s that we have no way of getting enough oil out of the midwest – taken from Canada to the Gulf to the east or west coasts to balance the price out – which is $30 a barrel different in price. That $30 difference is $.50 at the pump. And the $30 difference is because Europe and the northeast are in the same oil market, but the midwest isn’t. So when Iran gets closed off, the Europeans take more from the north atlantic and drive the price up for the east coast. China similarly does the same for the west coast.
The Keystone pipeline is the right idea, in the wrong place. All it would do is make the oil in the midwest even cheaper. We need better ways to redistribute oil around the country to even the price out.
I’m sure when you were pointing out the price of gas back in 2008, You didn’t mean to insinuate that Bush had anything to do with it.