Government can’t do much about gasoline prices

To the editor:

Republican advertisements are critical of the Obama administration for the high cost of gasoline. We continue to hear the “drill, baby, drill” mantra from them. Let’s look at some plain, verifiable facts:

1. For the first time since 1949, America is exporting gasoline, aviation and diesel fuel. That’s right, while gasoline prices are significantly higher than this time last year, the oil companies are exporting gasoline because they can make more money doing so. Demand in the United States is down, and the oil companies are in business to make a profit.

2. The top five countries from which we import crude oil are (in order): Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria. We import twice as much from Canada as from Saudi Arabia, and Mexico is almost equal to Saudi Arabia. Only 16 percent of our imported oil comes from the Middle East. We get no oil from Iran or Libya.

3. The top five crude oil producing countries in the world are (in order): Russia, Saudi Arabia, United States, Iran, China. That’s right, the United States is the third-largest producer of crude oil in the world. The U.S. production numbers are very close to those of Saudi Arabia and more than twice as much as the fourth-place producer, Iran.

4. Finally, the U.S. increased production of oil and petroleum products about 20 percent since 2008. Yes, that is since President Obama took office. Even so, gasoline prices have risen. So much for drill, baby, drill.

Federal laws do not allow raw crude oil that’s produced in the United States to be exported, but do allow the export of refined products that come from it – for example, gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Most gasoline exports go from Gulf Coast refineries to Latin America, where demand is booming. If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, then the Canadian oil moving through the pipeline to the Gulf Coast will mostly be refined and then exported, thus making good profits for the Canadian companies, but not resolving the problem of high U.S. fuel prices.

So Republican complaints that the president can solve the high gasoline prices by drilling more are simply false. Similarly, the construction of Keystone XL won’t make a difference. Unless Congress wants to intervene and outlaw the export of gasoline and similar products (something the Republicans would undoubtedly fight against until their last collective breath), nothing can be done by the government to reduce the price of gasoline at the pump. As long as worldwide demand is up, prices will continue to stay high, to the delight of oil company executives and stockholders.

David Adams

Las Vegas

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