Gas prices surges in the U.S.



The pump has got more expensive for many car owners across the United States. There is no timeline currently in when the rise in prices will stop.

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

In the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the United States has tried to aid Ukraine with supplies and by punishing Russia economically. The U.S. sanctioned several Russian banks, helped organize the withdrawal of certain Russian banks from the SWIFT international banking network and blocked some Russian travel. The most recent area the U.S. has attacked is Russian oil imports, starting on Tuesday.

According to Patricia Cohen and Stanley Reed for the New York Times, Russia receives more than a third of its national budget from oil and gas exports. The previous sanctions on Russia’s economy had a negative effect on these exports, as did the negative stigma of being associated with Russian companies for many shippers and importers.

Many legislators put pressure on the White House to stop importing oil from Russia in the United States altogether. This comprised both Democrats and Republicans, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The United States had been importing around 700,000 barrels of oil from Russia per day, according to Catie Edmondson and Clifford Krauss of the New York Times. That accounted for about 4%of American consumption. The White House declined to cut off Russian oil at first, claiming the loss of supply would spike gas prices here in the U.S., but has now switched course.

However, gas prices were already rising here in the U.S. long before Russia invaded Ukraine. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in December of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit here in America, average gas prices were about $2.53 per gallon. In 2020, this number was as low as $1.78. However, from January to December of 2021, prices rose from about $2.25 to $3.34. From 2017 to 2020, average prices never rose above $3.00. By the end of the first week of March of 2022, when Russia had invaded Ukraine, average prices had climbed to $4.10.

The rise in gas prices is partly due to the demand increase as people began traveling more following the end of many mandates in 2020. The supply was reduced because producers responded to the decreased demand. Now, some oil companies are reluctant to raise production to avoid a price drop caused by too much supply.

However, there are certain policies the Biden administration has taken that have not helped reduce inflation. Shortly after taking office, Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which had been a 10 year project before being dismantled. He has not moved to shut down other large controversial pipelines in the U.S., however. Regulations to decrease emissions have also been increased. Another controversy the Biden administration has faced is decisions about oil drilling on federal lands. While they have not blocked all current drilling on public lands or stopped granting permits, new leases to drill on public lands were paused in 2021 and once again in January of 2022. While a Louisiana judge has ordered the auction of leases to be resumed, the legal battle still has the issue tied up.

Despite failing to live up to his promises to do much more to limit fossil fuels, Biden has still taken many steps to hurt U.S. oil production. The reason behind this is to reduce our dependance on fossil fuels and move towards more renewable sources of energy. This has hurt our economy now, as it is still reliant on fossil fuels. While working toward more renewable energy sources is potentially a good goal, trying to rush that process has contributed to rising gas prices.

That leads us back to whether the move to stop Russian oil imports was wise for the United States. While it seems to be a small percentage of total U.S. consumption, we did still get a significant supply of oil from Russia. So, while it was good for the U.S. to cancel our oil imports from Russia to deal another blow to the Russian war effort in Ukraine, it will be important to find an alternative to help balance that loss. The Biden administration should work to increase drilling here in the U.S. and reduce some of the new regulations to help lower the current gas prices and replace that loss.