Foreign policy effects gas prices

Jen Steer

Credit: Steve Schirra

Just the other week, one of my teachers told the class that she thought gas prices would be less than $2 a gallon right before Election Day this November. I laughed at the thought, considering that since I started driving I had yet to pay less than $2.50.

My instructor’s reasoning is a popular opinion with the public. She meant that Republicans would attempt to make the economy look better than it really is in order to impress voters.

Now, while I may not know a whole lot about the oil industry or even pumping gas for that matter, it’s easy to get caught up in the headlines about how much the average American should expect to pay at the pump. But beyond the headlines and the constant footage of the giant price tags outside of every gas station, people need to acknowledge all the factors that go in to determining the price of gas.

Early last month, Chevron found new oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, which was a huge breakthrough. This news sent the price per barrel of oil down about 70 cents. We’re continuing to feel the effects of this event today. Still, the oil industry itself does not solely determine how much a tankful will cost you.

Business Week on Sept. 25 spelled out my point a little clearer. It explained that if the United States is able to place sanctions on Iran for its nuclear intentions, the price per barrel could reach more than $100. Iran would be forced to limit exports, and the first thing it would cut would be the amount of oil shipped to the United States. That’s one sure-fire way to stick it to us and emphasize the unintended consequences that go along with United Nations sanctions.

The post-Sept. 11 neglect of South America could also hit our pockets hard. Aside from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calling Bush “El Diablo,” he is cutting oil exports to the United States. Chavez’s strong dislike for our president could lead to even greater cuts in our oil supply. In the long run, this could once again send gas prices skyrocketing.

Finally, we return to the idea that low gas prices are all part of a conspiracy led by Republicans. Without a doubt Bush could have made a few phone calls and tapped into the reserves, which would have resulted in a big savings for me at the pump. It is a possibility. But with so many things going on in the world, Bush’s ability to control anything, let alone the gas market, is increasingly difficult.

While the happenings of the oil industry are important, foreign policy and politics can just as easily influence the price of gas. And even though we could attribute these low prices to Republicans covering up the economic slowdown in this country, I’d prefer to not give them any credit.

Jen Steer is a junior broadcast journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].