The Washington Post

At the pump

Barely a year ago, President Barack Obama called for a one-third reduction in oil imports by 2025, saying the United States cannot continue to “propose action when the gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again.”

“We will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy,” he explained.

The latest data show that the United States is, in fact, importing far less oil than in 2005 and that friendly countries, among them Canada and Colombia, are providing more of that imported oil.

And yet, gasoline prices are soaring. What gives?

Despite the mud-wrestling in Washington over who’s to blame for high prices at the pump, the reality is that there’s very little the United States can do to control them.

“It doesn’t matter from where the United States is importing its oil because it’s a global market, it’s a fungible commodity,” said RoseAnne Franco, a Houston-based energy analyst for Wood Mackenzie. “What drives prices are global factors – global supply and demand and geopolitics as well.”

So even though little oil is imported from Libya, the civil war there contributed to higher prices in the United States, Neelesh Nerurkar, an energy specialist at the Congressional Research Service, told Congress in a December hearing on energy security.

Producing more oil at home or increasingly relying on, say, Brazil as opposed to Iraq does confer real benefits – lessening the possibility of a disruption to supplies. But that’s because of logistics.

A major crisis affecting oil supplies anywhere – whether it’s an Iranian blockade of tanker traffic or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shutting off the spigot – would raise prices everywhere.

“As long as oil remains the only source of energy to participate in the transportation fuel market, those who control the lion’s share of production reserves will rule the day,” Gal Luft, director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, told Congress.

Juan Forero

Show Comments
Washington Post Subscriptions

Get 2 months of digital access to The Washington Post for just 99¢.

A limited time offer for Apple Pay users.

Buy with
Cancel anytime

$9.99/month after the two month trial period. Sales tax may apply.
By subscribing you agree to our Terms of Service, Digital Products Terms of Sale & Privacy Policy.

Get 2 months of digital access to The Washington Post for just 99¢.

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing
Read content from allstate
Content from Allstate This content is paid for by an advertiser and published by WP BrandStudio. The Washington Post newsroom was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more about WP BrandStudio.
We went to the source. Here’s what matters to millennials.
A state-by-state look at where Generation Y stands on the big issues.