By listening to the presidential debates and political pundits you could be forgiven in assuming that there is some correlation between domestic oil production and the price you pay at the pump. By now it has almost become a tenet of conventional wisdom that an uptick in domestic oil production--especially by expanding offshore drilling--will result in lowered gas prices.
But, is there any indication that this is actually true?
As NPR reporter David Kestenbaum discovered in talking to our energy-independent neighbors to the north, not really.
"Do all the conversions, adjust for taxes, and [Canadians are paying] something around $4 per gallon — about the same price as we pay in the U.S. right now.
Energy independence does not mean cheaper gasoline. It doesn't even mean that prices are more stable. Gas prices in Canada went up this summer just like they did in the United States."
Why is this? Common sense would seem to dictate that the more oil you produce at home the less vulnerable you are to foreign conflagrations, hostile petro-states and a fluctuating world market.
But that is not at all the case. As Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless distilled it in an op-ed for Politico:
Ask yourself this question: When BP or any other big oil company finds oil in the Gulf of Mexico, does it sell it to us at a discount because we were kind enough to let them drill in America?
No, it doesn’t. It sells it all over the world at the price set in the international oil market. As an international commodity, oil is priced on an international basis — according to global supply and demand.
This should be taken into consideration as the clamor for offshore drilling, especially from oil companies, grows. This much is clear: lower oil prices can't justify the perpetual specter of oil spills, seismic testing and greenhouse gas emissions that come from exploiting ever more remote pockets of fossil fuels.