The Week Ahead: Two words you won't hear from oil companies: lower prices

May 24, 2014 

Sometime around 2011, the calls for energy independence shifted from "Drill, baby, drill" to "Fracking is the future." But a strange thing happened on our way to greater energy autonomy -- prices haven't dropped.

American oil companies are pumping more petroleum from the ground today than they have since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. That has led to a 20-year low in crude oil imports. Oil fractured loose from under North Dakota shale rock is finding its way to the gas tanks of more Americans. Two years ago, just 5 percent of oil refined into gasoline at East Coast refiners was domestic. Today, 50 percent of oil brewed into gasoline in the eastern United States comes from under American soil. Refiners along the Gulf Coast have reduced their thirst for overseas oil by a quarter of what it was just two years ago.

Reducing the reliance on foreign sources of energy has not led to lower prices though. Gasoline prices have been climbing since November even as U.S. oil production has shot up 25 percent over the same time period. It serves as another lesson that while energy sources may be local, energy prices are global.

This Memorial Day week American drivers are paying about the same price at the pump compared to a year ago. More of that gasoline is refined from American oil. But that growing independence has not led to sustained lower prices. While our energy supply may be under our feet, the global energy price trends may be out of our hands.

Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television. Follow him on Twitter@HudsonsView.

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