Conspiracy theorists point to the "failure" of the oil companies to build new refineries. But environmental restrictions make the construction of new refineries an expensive and risky proposition, and few communities want them anywhere near their ZIP codes.
A recent editorial in a liberal newspaper brought some sad news. It pinned the high prices on the mysterious notion of supply and demand. It noted that despite the teeth-gnashing, Americans -- over the Memorial Day weekend -- intended to keep driving. And even with the availability of more fuel-efficient cars, Americans still love those old "gas-guzzling" SUVs, what with their roominess, high-tech features and all. Somebody, please, stop the insanity!
What about the prices paid by consumers in other countries? While the average driver in the U.S. paid $2.68 per gallon in mid-April, our Northern brethren in Canada paid $3.56. Meanwhile, a gallon in Japan cost $4.16, the Spaniards paid $5.14, the French forked over $6.50, a trip down the autobahn cost German drivers $6.72 a gallon, and our friends in the United Kingdom kept a stiff upper lip while shelling out $8.37.
Some lawmakers talk of "breaking up" the oil companies, or imposing a windfall profits tax. Been there, done that. The taxes simply suck up money otherwise spent on research, exploration and production. And you want to put government in charge of determining the appropriate size and operating efficiency of oil companies?
So let's sum up. Politicians and the mainscream media ignore supply and demand; overlook the impact of federal, state and local taxes on the price of a gallon of gas; disregard the effect of consumers' driving habits; refuse to point out the ineffectiveness of "windfall profits taxes"; and blame Big Oil for refusing to build refineries while ignoring environmental restrictions that make it unprofitable to do so.
But at least they care.