Gas Prices: Blame Where Blame Really Lies

By April 18, 2007Energy

A new Field Poll reports that nearly half of all Californians are changing their spending habits due to rising gas prices. And everyone’s to blame but elected officials who have foreclosed development of new energy supplies. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

According to the Field Poll, voters cited the oil companies and the Bush administration as those most responsible for the price increases.

Of those surveyed, 65 percent heaped a lot of blame on oil companies while 46 percent directed their ire at the administration. Oil-producing countries got a lot of blame from 37 percent, while 29 percent put the blame on Americans who drive gas-guzzling vehicles. The poll allowed people to choose multiple answers.

Sadly, repetition of demogogic talking points can influence public opinion, but those who responded to the poll should look elsewhere for the cause of high gas prices. It’s not the oil companies that have fixed California’s energy infrastructure in the 1970s. We direct you to the report from the nonpartisan California Performance Review, “Siting for Energy Facilities is Fractured and Inefficient“:

There has not been a new oil refinery built in California in the past 35 years. [20] High gasoline prices have been attributed, in part, to the lack of adequate oil refinery facilities. [21] During an April 22, 2004, interview on NBC TV’s Meet the Press, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia responded to a question from NBC’s Tim Russert regarding crude oil prices:

Well, there is a reason, because it’s not a matter of crude. The reason you have high prices in United States is the refineries are not enough to refine. There is a one-million-barrel shortage of refined products. So even if tomorrow we send you all the oil we have as crude, it will not change the facts here. Do you know, Tim, that the United States has not built a refinery for about 15 years? And like our oil minister said the other day in Dallas, we are willing to invest in refineries in the United States of America and that will be really the best route to go. [22]

According to one source, California ports find that it is in their economic interest to build container facilities instead of marine petroleum product terminals, tank farms and associated piping because they receive more income and incur less risk. [23] One agency does not have overall responsibility for the permitting process for marine terminals, refineries and other facilities. The fractured nature of regulatory authority makes it very difficult to obtain the appropriate permits and makes it relatively easy for a project opponent to derail the project because of the multiple venues to which the developer has to go. [24]

Shakespeare addressed gas prices in Julius Caeser, we believe, in the voice of Cassius.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings

Or voters, if you prefer.