News Columns & Blogs

Pro-con: Are oil companies to blame for gas prices?

Gas prices have been tickling $4 a gallon, the nation has grown increasingly reliant on foreign oil, and we still are in need of an energy policy. And who is to blame for the lack of progress? Is it President Obama, the oil companies, or members of Congress? The answers are “no,” “yes” and “yes.” The "Big Five" oil companies — ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and BP — reported a combined first-quarter profit of $62 .7 billion. Since 2000, their combined profits approach $1 trillion. Obama has proposed ending these subsidies. Congressional Republicans — the party of low taxes and free markets — however, continue to fight to retain every oil industry tax break. Since 1998, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $1 billion on lobbying, according to It's clear to see why our energy policy can't get changed. The companies like it, and their protectors in Congress like it. — Michael J. Wilson, Americans for Democratic Action

Before we make the mistake of blaming oil companies for high gas prices, we should consider who the real culprits are. By relying so heavily on imported oil, we are held hostage to events halfway around the world, such as the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. Another problem: Oil supplies are getting harder to replace once they've been consumed — and the demand for oil keeps growing, particularly in China, India and Brazil. In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, the world consumed 11 percent more oil than a decade earlier. It's time for the administration to realize the urgency and to set the country on a clear strategy of boosting oil production at home. President Obama's recently announced steps to lease some new areas, while worthwhile, fall short of what needs to be done. Congress should lift the moratorium on oil development in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico now. — Mark J. Perry, University of Michigan-Flint