When it comes to gas prices at the pump, presidents don’t have as much power as they would like people to believe, reports Wendy Koch, my Gannett colleague at USA Today.
The issue came up during Tuesday’s presidential debate, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney pointed out that gas prices were below $2 a gallon in Nassau County four years ago, and have since spiked above $4. Pres. Barack Obama countered that gas prices were so low then because of the recent financial collapse.
Koch notes that the candidates also talked about the need for more oil and gas production at home and developing renewable energy:
What they didn’t say is that U.S. gas prices are largely determined by something else: global crude oil prices, which depend on myriad factors such as economic sanctions on Iran, spare oil capacity in Saudi Arabia and auto use in China — factors over which they have little control.
“Politicians don’t like to admit they don’t have control over everything,” says Daniel Weiss, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a non-partisan advocacy group that favors a clean-energy agenda.
Although U.S. production of oil and petroleum products has increased 20% since 2008, it was still only 11% of the world’s supply last year and 53% of what the nation used, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In other words, it’s just not enough to sway global crude oil prices — and gas prices.
“The reality is that presidents have very little to do with near-term fluctuations in gasoline prices,” Frank Verrastro, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a U.S. Senate panel earlier this year.
Have you been doing anything to limit your fuel consumption to save money as prices soar? Talk about it below.
(Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands after the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)