Running the gas gauntlet: Weighing solutions to rising prices

Zoe Stratos | opinions editor. In Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood, a BP on the corner of East Carson Street and 10th Street advertises gas at $4.35 per gallon.

by Zachary Petroff | staff writer

March 17, 2022

This past break I spent time back in my hometown of Canton, Ohio.  I used my time to relax, reflect and listen to my friends and family members go on and on about fringe conservative talking points derived from cable news and Facebook. It was a treat, patiently listening to the regurgitation of ill-informed talking points and ridiculous conspiracy theories easily debunked by applying a minimal amount of critical thinking.

As much as I disagreed with many of the things said, I really did appreciate it, and if pressed, I would have to admit I missed it. It’s nice to listen to an opinion or a viewpoint that isn’t the direct reverberation of my own echo chamber.

Two of the reoccurring talking points my Sean Hannity-esque family and friends kept bringing up were how bad Joe Biden is and how outrageous gas prices are.

While I may not agree with their Fox News inspired solutions, I agree with the sentiments.

Joe Biden is not doing a good job and gas prices are too high.

While my proposed solution to fix the current administration and hold them accountable — instead of giving the 79-year-old president a free pass because he is simply “not the other guy” — requires much more radical use of our political institutions.

However, my solutions to fix gas prices are both flexible and viable: nationalize and replace.

I have heard the cry to start drilling in the United States. This was on full display when congresswoman Lauren Boebert wore a “Drill Baby Drill” shawl at the State of the Union.

The pain at the pump is real. It does not help that the rate of inflation is the highest it’s been since 1982, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the continuation of stagnant wages, the pandemic and overall diminishing of a middle class, the untimely increase of gas prices can break those already on an overstretched budget.

The notion that this can be fixed with drilling in the U.S. is not nearly as feasible nor practical as some believe.

Let’s put all the harmful environmental detrimental consequences aside — even though we definitely should not — the solution to our lowering of gas prices is not simply going on an American drill frenzy.

This is not without precedent. March 18 marks the 83rd anniversary of the Mexican “Oil Expropriation Day.”  The national holiday is a celebration of when the Mexican government kicked out foreign oil interests and nationalized all the petroleum reserves, facilities and foreign oil companies in 1938. Ironically the decision to nationalize petroleum was not due to the high price of oil, but was sparked by union workers trying to receive a living wage. I wonder if that sounds familiar with any other current economic climate?

Despite what your conservative relatives say on social media, the president does not control gas prices with the push of a button. Oil companies are a free enterprise that operate with few restrictions. Often when an administration even thinks of applying any sort of regulation to the oil landscape, these for-profit industries react by increasing prices in order to remind us of their stranglehold on the U.S. economy and, ultimately, public opinion.

We are not truly holding those that are responsible accountable.

America is already one of the top producers of oil. The prices are manipulated not by production but by the events on the world market — along with the end goal of providing large returns on investors to the shareholders to shale companies. An increase in drilling will not lower gas prices, it just allows a level of flexibility to shale companies in terms of trading globally on the market.

Restriction to oil companies from price gouging is a myth. This is apparent every time a natural disaster occurs. The U.S. government does a horrible job regulating these gigantic oil corporations even at times when Americans need it most.

If the U.S. can justify the need for utilizing American oil wells, then they can concede this is an act of American security and thus needs to be nationalized. We need to stop letting the 24 oil companies have so much lateral freedom, as well as political influence.

According to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, since 2011 four oil companies employ around 40 lobbyists per year and have spent around $350 million on Federal lobbying. The American Petroleum Institute employs 48 lobbyists and have spent $78 million trying to influence Congress this past decade.

It is time America takes a page from our southern neighbors and puts the interest of the American people first. Nationalizing the oil industry allows the American people the ability to take back their country and purge the U.S. of the greed of a few.