Running on Empty Tour Is Empty of Facts, Full of Misinformation

Americans for Prosperity, a group funded in part by the petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries, recently launched a tour of the American heartland, hoping to whip up a righteous furor against the current administration for high gas prices.

It’s ironic for a company that profits from oil speculation, which helps drive up prices, to support an organization asking people to blame the government for high gas prices. One notable example of the company’s practices: According to Fortune magazine, in 2008 Koch leased 3 supertankers to hold millions of barrels of crude offshore, hoarding the oil until prices went up.

As I’ve said before, many times, many ways, America does not control the 80-plus-million-barrel-daily oil market, and we never will. (OPEC comes closest to that position, and they will profit from their sales to the tune of $1 trillion this year alone.) Oil production under the Obama administration is higher than it has been for years. We have drilled our land and seas more thoroughly and extensively than any other nation on earth, and we still have only 2 percent of the world’s oil supply. We’re a drop in the global oil bucket. We can drill ourselves silly and have zero impact on gas prices.

The forces that control oil prices are supply and demand (and perhaps the recent influx of money into the futures market, where speculation also plays a role).

We can’t control supply. Even if we gave the oil industry carte blanche to drill every bit of our coastline (efforts that we subsidize with billions of taxpayer dollars), according to the federal Energy Information Administration, we can all look forward to saving 3 cents a gallon as a result – by 2030.

Save three cents, and risk another Deepwater Horizon disaster? It doesn’t make sense.

We can curb speculation by tightening up lax regulation in the financial industry, but Koch Industries and other Big Oil lobbyists continue to fight transparency laws in Congress.

The real solution to high gas prices is making more efficient use of oil so we are not so overwhelmingly dependent on it. This is where the government can really be effective, by putting policies in place that will reduce our need for oil and protect you and me from gas price spikes.

The president has already issued new fuel economy standards that will make cars more efficient, allowing people to keep more gas money in their pockets. And if he supports, as NRDC and other groups recommend, a new standard of 60 miles per gallon by 2025, we would save 8 times more oil than we could ever get by drilling.

Expanding access to public transportation, such as commuter rail, gives commuters an option to get out of their cars, and could save people $850 a month on gas costs. Building a 21st century transportation infrastructure is critical to breaking our addiction to oil.

The administration should continue to support the development of electric vehicles and infrastructure. Getting more electric cars on the road would save millions of barrels of oil each day.

Claims that expanding drilling is going to ease pain at the pump are patently false. If Americans for Prosperity really wanted to “educate” people about high gas prices, would they need to tour the country with a 14-foot inflatable gas pump? We deserve to get the facts about oil -- not snake oil.

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