Unless you've been in a coma, you know gasoline prices have risen by about 41 cents per gallon this year, more than 5.3 cents per week.
By April Fool's Day a gallon of regular will cost just about $4, and at this rate, $5 by Election Day. In California, premium is already more than $5. Amazingly, supply and demand has had nothing to do with this rocket-like climb in prices.
Much of the country experienced a mild winter, resulting in a surplus of crude oil. As gas prices have risen, Americans are driving less, and with more efficient cars on the road, gas consumption has dropped.
Speculation and jitters over the possibility of Iran blockading the Strait of Hormuz have pushed up the cost of crude, but stock market pressure and heightened tension in the Mideast doesn't come close to explaining the price rise at the pump.
On Feb. 12, Saudi Arabia promised increased production to match the shortfall caused by Iranian oil being withheld from the world market.
Their pledge did little to slow down the rate of growth in gas prices, even though for now and the near future, oil supply will remain stable. Increased supply and reduced demand should drive prices downward. But they have not.
If supply and demand aren't responsible for the $60 shock we get every time we fuel up the car, what is? Meet the American Petroleum Institute, lobbyists for Big Oil. In the last 20 years, API has contributed almost $1 billion to political campaigns, 80 to 90 percent of which went to Republican candidates.
This year, the API will take full advantage of the moronic Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, adding direct campaign contributions to the $7 million it spent last year to preserve tax loopholes for Big Oil. Their publicist was quoted as saying, "at the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate."
The API has opposed every safety and environmental protection regulation affecting oil production ever to come out of Congress. It opposes all attempts to shrink the billions of dollars in tax breaks that Big Oil receives - this in the face of unprecedented profits the petroleum industry made last year, gouging you and me at the gas pump. And heaven help you if you heat your home with oil, as many of us in Carroll County do.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey proposed legislation requiring oil coming into the United States through the proposed Keystone Oil pipeline to be sold in the United States.
But reducing our dependence on foreign oil by keeping gas refined in America here in America is too anti-American for the API, whose spokesman said, "Any effort to restrict market forces on commodities like oil and natural gas is a North Korean-style model of economics." Big Oil would rather increase its profit margin by selling it to China. If anything like supply and demand is operating to increase gas prices, it's foreign bidders looking for a bargain at our expense.
The Keystone Pipeline project is one of Big Oil's favorites. Before President Obama made his decision on it, API president Jack Gerard threatened us all, saying "the consequences will be significant" if Obama doesn't approve it. Curiously, the price began its rise one day after Obama decided that Keystone was not in the best interests of the country.
The API blames taxes for the high cost of gas. But federal gas taxes have been 18.4 cents/gallon since before 2009.
You don't need a Ph.D. to connect the dots: the API promises political consequences, Obama decides in favor of the American public and against Big Oil, and by remarkable coincidence, prices shoot up as the API blames Obama.
As my brother aptly put it, oil producers have updated the law of supply and demand: they demand more profits and we supply them.