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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.