Democratic News

As happens periodically, gasoline prices are back in the news.  Predictably, there is much discussion about this in Washington.  (We notice the volume is always louder in even-numbered years.)

As Senator Bingaman often has said, it’s important to keep these discussions grounded in actual facts.  That’s why we are glad today to see this report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).  The EIA was created by Congress in 1977 as an independent, policy-neutral statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Anyway, the report, “Sales of Fossil Fuels Produced from Federal and Indian Lands, FY 2003 through FY 2011,” provides EIA’s current best estimates of all fossil fuel sales from production on Federal and Indian lands over this eight-year period.  Because this study includes data about fuels including coal, which is not used to make transportation fuels, it can be confusing.  We suggest that reporters take a close look at findings regarding crude oil -- the main feedstock used to make gasoline. 

We also note that these EIA findings reinforce the facts Chairman Bingaman noted in his March 7 floor speech.  That speech also made clear that, even though Federal crude oil production is up -- as is crude oil production generally in the U.S. -- increased domestic production alone cannot bring us lower gasoline prices.  The price of oil is set in global markets.  Key points in the report are:

Federal crude oil production is up, as compared to 2008.  Crude oil is the primary commodity relevant to gasoline production.   EIA’s report shows that, in each year since 2008, total Federal production has been higher than in 2008. 

  • Onshore production of oil on Federal lands is now higher than it has been since at least 2003, having produced 112 million barrels in 2011. 
  • Offshore production of oil on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) dipped in 2011 from 2010, but is still higher than in 2008.  EIA notes that the latest (i.e., 2011) offshore production data “reflect government actions taken following the 2010 Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.”  These actions temporarily slowed new exploration activities in the deepwater portions of the Gulf, as increased safety measures were implemented. 

EIA’s summary data not particularly relevant to gasoline production. EIA’s “Findings” section at the beginning of the report aggregates production of all fossil fuels from Federal and Indian lands and offshore, and converts all types of fuels to their British Thermal Units equivalent.  This way of aggregating the data mixes both transportation fuels and fuels used to generate electricity such as coal, and is influenced by a wide variety of factors related to the electricity market.  For that reason, this data is significantly less informative about trends related to gasoline production than the data about crude oil set out above. 

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