oil well

Why More Oil Drilling in the US Won’t Lower Gas Prices

Oil well

Photo by Pixabay

Gas prices have been skyrocketing again. One solution people think will solve the high costs is for the U.S. to drill its own oil and use it domestically, but it’s not that simple. Many moving parts work together to make up the gas prices you see at the pump. In 2008, gas prices were at the highest many people had ever seen, at $5 per gallon. Whether gas prices nationwide will beat that record is anyone’s guess, but drilling for oil in the U.S. won’t decrease costs.

Understanding Supply and Demand

As with all products, gasoline needs consumers to help gauge its cost and worth. It follows the supply and demand model, which fluctuates depending on how many people want an item. One of the easiest ways to explain why gas prices are higher right now, without accounting for any outside influences, is more people are traveling. More people have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19, which has helped slow the spread of the virus. 

As such, many places have eased their COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions to allow people to visit other sites. Stay-at-home guidelines are a thing of the past, so more people are getting back into traveling — whether continentally or internationally.

Gas prices were really low during the height of the pandemic. They dropped nearly 50% in April 2020 alone. Since people stayed at home, they didn’t need gas except to travel around their city for groceries or work. Now that restrictions have been lifted, and people feel more confident about mingling with others, they’re beginning to travel more.

At the beginning of the pandemic, supply was high, but demand was low — so gas stations sold gasoline at a much lower price. Now that people are traveling, demand is higher, and supply is lower. Another factor could be the workforce. Much like every other industry, the oil industry saw workers retiring and resigning during the pandemic. Having fewer workers could drive prices higher until they have an appropriately-sized workforce again.

Why Are US Oil Prices So High?

The global price of oil sets how much you pay per gallon at the pump. Since gasoline is a volatile market, any shift in world politics or economies can send it soaring or plummeting. Of all the crude oil imported to the US, around 8% came from Russia. Despite Russia’s oil not making up a large percentage of the U.S.’s imported crude oil, you saw your gasoline prices go up.

Some people may think drilling on U.S. shores may change the price of oil. This idea is not ideal because it would do more harm to the environment — and it wouldn’t benefit Americans, either. The kind of oil the U.S. produces isn’t the same kind of oil Americans use, meaning that oil would still have to be imported, and prices likely would not change.

Offshore drilling also harms the environment. Not only will gas prices not go down by drilling on the U.S.’s land, but more drilling could harm other beings. Fish might migrate away from the shores that have underwater oil wells nearby, and any oil spills could kill or severely damage both ocean and terrestrial life. Even if drilling in the U.S. were to lower gas prices, would it be worth harming the environment and destroying animals’ habitats?

What Will Lower Gas Prices?

So, what can be done about the ever-increasing gas prices? The price of oil is almost a dance, where it fluctuates — sometimes, seemingly for no reason — up and down, depending on the year. The U.S. can’t lower prices out of nowhere because investors may push against them and advocate for rising prices. Many factors play a role in determining oil prices in the US, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, there is no way to forcibly lower the cost of gasoline in the U.S. 

The easiest way to combat rising gas prices is more costly upfront, but will pay off in the long run. Switching to electric vehicles within your household is a cleaner way to get where you need to go. If you can’t up and buy a new car, you can still find ways to reduce your use, such as carpooling or taking public transportation when possible. 

Biodiesel is a more environmentally-friendly replacement for regular diesel fuel. It’s typically made with plant oils or cooking oils, and it’s better for the environment because it comes from a sustainable resource.

Currently, the U.S. aims for around a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2030. As such, you should see pushes for new technology and alternative forms of energy as the years go on. Alternative forms of fuel might be more affordable in the near future, and the U.S. is bound to make strides in clean energy within the next decade.

The Future of Fuel

The short-term goal of any official in office is to lower gasoline prices so they don’t burden anyone’s wallets. The long-term goal should be to wean the American people off of oil altogether. Without greener alternatives, people will be at the mercy of gasoline prices and whatever they happen to be. 

Those who live in rural areas may not have as great a chance of carpooling or using public transportation, so personal cars are necessary. If you don’t want to fear gas prices, the best thing to do is find a substitute that can carry you toward a brighter, greener future.

Author bio: Jane Marsh works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Environment.co. To read more posts from Jane, sign up for Biofriendly Planet’s newsletter!

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