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OPINION: Blame corporate greed And “Big Oil” executives for higher gas prices

OPINION: Blame corporate greed And “Big Oil” executives for higher gas prices

OPINION: Blame corporate greed And "Big Oil" executives for higher gas prices

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The price of a barrel of petroleum was $128 a week ago. It’s now down to $94 but gas prices are going up. President Biden has noticed this discrepancy as well. “Oil prices are decreasing, gas prices should too,” Biden said on Twitter. “Last time oil was $96 a barrel, gas was $3.62 a gallon. Now it’s $4.31. Oil and gas companies shouldn’t pad their profits at the expense of hard-working Americans.”

People across the United States have been seeing rising gas prices despite energy companies making record profits and now the conflict in Ukraine is being exploited by petroleum interests to charge consumers even more at the pump. This is corporate greed, plain and simple.

Every 10-cent increase in the price of gasoline costs consumers at least $11 billion over the course of a year. If prices stay this high, consumers will pay $165 billion more over the course of 2022 than they did in 2019, according to Moody’s Analytics.

A report by government watchdog group Accountable.US shows that 25 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations pulled about $205 billion in profits last year. Shareholders from fourteen firms were rewarded with more than $35 billion in stock buybacks and dividend bumps.

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You don’t have to believe me when I tell you that the oil industry has had a great run lately. Chevron called 2021 one of its “most successful years,” and Coterra CEO Tom Jordan said that high gas prices are “good,” while Equinor CEO Anders Opedal acknowledged that oil interests are “capturing value from high prices.”

Energy prices have risen in the first few months of 2022, and a ban on Russian fossil fuel imports by the United States following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine drove prices even further. While big oil CEOs blame the hike in the price of oil on the Ukrainian conflict and inflation in general, they have announced plans to buy back almost $80 billion in stocks during 2022.

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President Biden has called out energy companies by stressing that this is “no time for profiteering or price-gouging,” and the Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on legislation to be passed that would prevent these price hikes while boosting investments in renewable energy — an issue championed by Senator Ed Markey who said during remarks at the winter Democratic National Committee meeting that “drilling for more oil will not get us energy independence, Republicans are using the war in Ukraine to line the pockets of oil companies.”

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While drilling for oil is an inadequate short-term solution for our energy crisis, Biden has been baselessly attacked by oil companies for suppressing domestic extraction. This is just a straight-up lie. Biden approved more permits for drilling on public lands and waters in 2021 than Donald Trump did in 2017, and Biden has also ordered the release of millions of barrels of oil from the United States strategic reserve.

The reality is that the oil industry benefits from the low supply which artificially raises prices. There is just no incentive in terms of profit motive for them to ramp up oil production or tap into their unused leases. If you want to blame anyone for higher gas prices, blame oil executives. Until we end our dependence on fossil fuels, we will be at their mercy.

Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.

RELATED STORY: UNDER $100: Oil prices down sharply

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Thomas Kennedy
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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