Gas War: U.S. Oil Companies Accused of Price Fixing With OPEC, Increasing Inflation

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shared documents that would seem to suggest that U.S. shale oil firms purposefully colluded with the government of Saudi Arabia to fix oil prices between 2021 and 2023. The report was followed by a piece from BIG journalist Matt Stoller alleging that American oil companies and Saudi leadership likely cost the average American household $3,000 via fuel price hikes and the subsequent inflation created by artificially spiking the market.

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Gas War: Biden Admin Decides Against Refilling Dwindling Oil Reserves, Citing High Prices

The Biden administration has decided against purchasing oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after promising to refill the nation’s emergency energy supply after it reached a 40-year low. This news does not bode well as we head into the summer months when fuel prices tend to be higher.

America’s oil reserve is currently authorized to hold more than 720 million barrels of emergency crude oil that can be released under certain conditions. While the exacting thresholds are fairly vague, emergency drawdowns have occurred in the past due to oil supply disruptions stemming from trade embargoes, natural disasters, and warfare. The Biden administration argued that both the COVID-19 pandemic and Russo-Ukrainian War qualified.

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American Fuel Consumption Goes Down, Prices Do Not

Fuel prices have been climbing this year and continue to do so. However, consumer demand can no longer be blamed as we enter into the autumn months when consumption consistently drops. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Americans were burning through a million fewer barrels of oil last week than they were the week before.

What isn’t dropping is oil prices and that seems to be making all the difference.

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Opinion: Blaming Rising Fuel Prices on High Temps is Dumb

With average fuel prices creeping back up, you’ve undoubtedly seen a slew of articles trying to explain why. The trend seems to be to just blame it on warm weather. 

Over the past week, countless media outlets published stories about how oil refineries have had to scale back production targets to contend with exceedingly high temperatures. But is this really the keystone issue for why you’re once again contending with undesirable fuel prices? 

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U.S. Government Cancels Oil and Gas Leases Amid Record Fuel Prices

Despite the United States confronting some of the highest energy prices in its history, the Biden administration has canceled oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), national fuel prices are averaging out to a whopping $4.43 per gallon of regular gasoline. Diesel is much higher at $5.56 and is speculated to endure mass shortages in the coming months as reports from the Northeast have indicated there are already seeing record-low inventories. Over the past twelve months, fuel prices have risen by nearly $1.50 per gallon and most market analysts expect rates to continue moving upwards through the summer. Though they’re not all in agreement as to who should be blamed for our current predicament.

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Rising Fuel Prices Have Upended the Economy

Unless you’ve spent the last twelve months locked inside your home, then you’re probably dreading the next trip to the gas station. The average price for a gallon of 87 octanes has reached $3.40 in the United States. That’s about 50 percent steeper than it was at the start of 2021 and undoubtedly more than you’re wanting to shell out today. Though one cannot ignore the dizzying rates being advertised outside of British “petroleum parlors” or France’s many “un bordel pour voitures.” Canadians are also forced to endure higher gasoline prices, as the government tends to stack the taxes a little higher and the U.S. dollar tends to be more valuable. At least for now.

All you need to know for the purposes of this article is that fuel prices are up and it’s influencing the economy in some pretty dramatic ways.

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Gas War: Biden Suspends Oil Drilling Leases in Alaska

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it would be suspending oil and gas leases issued in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the last days of the Trump administration. Bent on maintaining the United State’s energy independence, Donald Trump had moved to expand fossil fuel development in ways that would have been at odds with predecessor Barack Obama. But today’s White House represents a return to form, with an interest in supplanting traditional energy concerns with what it believes will be greener alternatives.

It’s bad news for the Alaskan state government, which had hoped to devote a subset of the region to rebuilding its oil industry by taking advantage of its vast reserves. But environmentalists and a subset of tribal representatives have praised the decision to prohibit development on protected lands. We expect consumers will have conflicting opinions, based largely upon how much they’re willing to pay at the pump.

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We Ran Out of Fuel on the East Coast

With the Colonial Pipeline shut down due to last week’s ransom hacking, the Eastern United States has found itself running out of fuel. The line was shut down on Friday as a precaution and we’ve since learned that it’s not going to be reopened until this weekend — and maybe not even then.

While this has left some of us with fuel prices creeping aggressively toward $3 per gallon, other parts of the East Coast have seen panic buying and legitimate outages. But it’s hardly surprising when you consider the Colonial Pipeline is the country’s largest. Turning off the tap has ramifications and they’re manifesting all across the coast, though the situation appears to be substantially worse in southern states.

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Activist Attacks Oil Companies by Shaming Ad Agencies

Environmental activist Jamie Henn, and his firm, Fossil Free Media, are attacking advertising and PR agencies that work on oil industry accounts. Their initiative, Clean Creatives, is designed to shame some of the world’s largest PR and ad agencies in hopes that they will resign.

“We want to get PR and ad agencies to stop working with the oil industry because they are spreading misinformation about climate change and lobbying action to address the crisis,” said Henn. “Our reliance on fossil fuels is driving global warming which will have serious impacts on our environment, health, and economy.”

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There's Little Reason to Hunt for Fresh Oil in 2020

Ever since the first major oil fields were discovered at the start of the 20th century, the world has been on a never-ending hunt to see where else black gold might be hiding. Monetizing seepage areas goes back even further. But with global oil demand having dissipated on account of the pandemic, there’s little reason to spend cash on additional procurement.

Combine that with the green movement doing everything it can to convince governments there’s only one ethical way to handle energy, and we’re likely to be moving into an era where fossil fuels sell for less but cost more to harvest/utilize thanks to carbon emission regulations.

This has left oil companies pondering the true value of seeking new sources of oil, with some having already decided there’s no point.

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Let's Not Forget Where the Fuel Economy Rollback Leaves Oil Companies

The Trump administration’s ongoing endeavor to replace existing fuel economy mandates with something easier on automakers is a hot topic, but the issue has more angles than a rhombicosidodecahedron. One that took a backseat during much of our coverage is where the oil industry fits into all of this. We figured it was pretty obvious because, every time we heard the word “rollback,” our minds automatically added the cash register sound effect.

Car manufacturers aggressively lobbied for more lax corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards since Donald Trump took office. But so has the oil industry; it just wasn’t doing so quite as openly. So what exactly does the federal government’s fuel economy rollback mean for Big Oil? Don’t act as if you didn’t already know.

Cha-ching.

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EPA Head Defends Fuel Economy Rules, Industry Ties On Capitol Hill

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt spent the majority of his Thursday being raked over the coals by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee before a second (even uglier) exchange with the House Appropriations subcommittee. The majority of the time was spent addressing concerns surrounding Pruitt’s expenditures — things like unnecessary first-class travel, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, and his 24-hour security team. There were also discussions about alleged death threats against Pruitt and EPA staff, his overall conduct, and even a little bit on environmental policy.

Those discussions, however, saw some subcommittee members accuse Pruitt of championing the profits of oil companies and automakers over the wellbeing of the planet. The EPA head spent the duration of Thursday defending his actions, including planned regulatory rollbacks on fuel economy. He also supported the automotive industry’s proposal to abolish 87 octane and replace it with 95.

As ugly as the day was for Pruitt, Republicans occasionally hopped on the mic to gently support him. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said, “I think the greatest sin you’ve done is, you’ve actually done what President Trump ran on.”

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Electric Cars Are Officially Keeping the Oil Industry up at Night

Even though electric vehicles still only account for a sliver of the global market, Big Oil is beginning to take them seriously as a long-term threat to the industry. While preserving a finite resource is still probably the way to go, oil companies are accustomed to making money and have now begun revising their forecasts to account for accelerated EV adoption.

Companies like Exxon Mobil and BP are ratcheting up their outlooks for the technology, anticipating slowing oil demand, while OPEC has quintupled its forecast for sales of EVs in the coming years.

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  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.