A Look Behind Unstable Gas Prices & Attempts to Fix Them

A Look Behind Unstable Gas Prices & Attempts to Fix Them

Editor's Note: This is the latest episode of Energy NOW!, A video program dedicated to energy and environmental issues. You can see the full video at the bottom of this post, and archived episodes are online at EnergyNow.com.

Leading off this week, President Obama has ordered the release of 30 million barrels from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, created more than 35 years ago as an emergency stockpile to prevent an economic disaster if the nation's oil imports are suddenly cut off. The president says the release of oil from the U.S. and another 30 million barrels from its allies is needed because of supply losses created by the conflict in Libya. But is this an emergency that warrants tapping the SPR? And what effect will it have on gasoline prices? Anchor Thalia Assuras hears from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on whether the move is warranted, and whether it will help U.S. consumers – and the president.

Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA) says the move is a signal to OPEC that the United States will not be held hostage to high oil prices. However, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says the move by the president only proves that the country needs to increase domestic production. He believes the same results would come from approving stalled permits for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, without tapping into reserves he believes were meant for a true emergency.

Then, what's behind the timing of the president's move? Thalia talks with Rob Sobhani, president of Caspian Energy Consulting, to ask why policymakers released oil from the SPR now, instead of when prices were higher, and if Middle East turmoil is enough to justify it. Sobhani says the release is not a long-term fix for high oil prices, and the U.S. needs to develop political solutions that will have lasting effects on oil markets.

Next, most Americans know the price of gasoline better than the cost of almost anything else they buy regularly. But do they know all the factors that go into that price, or even the source of the crude oil used to make their gas? Special Correspondent Josh Zepps takes an inside look at everything that goes into the price of gas -- from the ground to your tank. Josh also explains why crude oil costs so much in the first place, where most of that oil comes from, and why the gas you buy varies from season to season, and place to place.

On this week's Mix, domestic gasoline prices have been rising and falling for years, but in the long-term, they always seem to get higher. So what's driving the ups and downs? Is the main cause of volatile prices high domestic demand, or unstable foreign sources of oil to supply American markets? Thalia interviews Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX), to discuss the causes of high gasoline prices in the U.S. and potential ways to the drive them down.

Then, with all the concern about gas prices, drivers are trying to get more miles for their money. Correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan travels to California to interview "hypermilers" about the tricks they use to squeeze every last inch out of a gallon of gas. He also finds out which of these techniques really work, and which are a waste of time.

Finally, in this week's energyNOW! Hot Zone, a team from Virginia Tech recently cruised to victory in the in the three-year "EcoCAR Challenge," with a car that gets 82 miles per gallon. The leader of the crew tells us what it took to beat teams from 15 other colleges across North America in the competition co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors.


Photo CC-licensed by Alesist.