Sep 23, 2008

Government no longer a scapegoat

by Tim Mattingly

There are no straight answers when it comes to gasoline as the collective American wallet vaporizes like fumes at the fuel pump. Such financial strain begets finger pointing and far too often, society blames elevated gas prices on the economic failings of the government.

Despite the fact that democrats have had control of the House and the Senate since 2006, this is not the time to play “pin the tail on the donkey.” Nor is it time to go ivory hunting in the Oval Office, which has been under republican control for the last eight years. When searching for solutions to the issue of high gas prices, one must look beyond the White House.

In any confusing situation, the first step in finding answers is to look at the facts. In the eight years between 1993 and 2001, gas prices rose from an average of $1.06 to $1.44 per gallon — an increase of 38 cents, according to the Energy Information Administration. In the seven years since then, the average gas price has spiked up to $4.16 per gallon — an increase of $2.72.

Initial thoughts on seeing such statistics are generally unpleasant with accusatory glances aimed at the president. However, the truth is that the world was a different place in those eight years preceding Sept. 11, 2001.

After the twin towers of New York collapsed into a pile of rubble, America was outraged. On that day, the nation declared an all-out war on terrorism. This vendetta would bring battle to the backyards of oil fields in the Middle East. Thus, the war on terror inevitably signaled a rise in the cost of fuel.

However, the war is only one possible cause of escalated gas prices. Another major force that impacted fuel costs goes by the name of Katrina.

Hurricane-force winds, reaching 175 miles per hour, battered and beleaguered the Gulf Coast. Katrina damaged 30 oil platforms and caused nine refineries to close, according to the United States Department of Commerce. Prior to this storm, the Gulf of Mexico supplied 10 percent of America’s consumed crude oil. This region is still reeling and recovering not only from Katrina, but also from more recent storms like Gustav and Ike.

Such national tragedies and disasters have played a key role in the increasing price of gas. However, the cost of oil is generally controlled beyond the borders of American soil, and this does not just include the deserts we have stormed.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is one of the major driving forces behind the rise and fall of gas prices. OPEC includes 13 countries, none of which are the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration. These countries produce 40 percent of the world’s oil and in April 2001, OPEC cut production by a million barrels a day.

Since then, OPEC’s productivity has fluctuated. If it wishes to receive more money per barrel, all it has to do is lower its oil output. OPEC has the law of supply and demand on its side.

Still, the government garnishes much of the blame for the gas price blues. But before pointing fingers, look past the pump and at the world around you. If worse comes to worst — save some gas, ride a pony.



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