By The Numbers: The Facts About Gasoline Prices

by Daniel J. Weiss

During the first presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney was caught making misleading, incorrect, and flat out wrong statements. concluded that “Romney often stretched the facts” during the debate. The New York Times Editorial Page Editor’s Blog noted that “Various truth squads have identified at least two dozen factual misstatements by Mitt Romney in 38 minutes of debate time on Wednesday night.”

The myriad of misstatements in the first debate was not a unique incident, but is a frequent occurrence.  The Romney campaign repeatedly dissembles on gasoline prices and other energy issues. Its latest blizzard of energy untruths were released this week in a memo to reporters.

Here are the facts about gasoline and other energy issues by the numbers.


  • None: The Associated Press found “no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump” after examining 30 years of data (see chart below).

  • $4 per gallon: “The average [gasoline price] exceeded $4 a gallon for seven weeks during the summer of 2008, and it has never reached $4 under Obama” according to USA Today.
  • 71 cents per gallon: increase in gasoline price since Speaker of the House John Boehner was sworn in.
  • $23.39: added to the price per barrel of oil by “Speculation in Crude Oil” according to Forbes magazine.
  • 8 percent: cut in Commodities Future Trading Commission staff under House passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The CFTC polices oil markets to prevent Wall Street speculators from driving up prices.

Domestic oil production

  • 11 percent: increase in U.S. oil production between 2011 and 2012.
  • 75 percent: increase in domestic oil rigs between 2009 and 2011.
  • 1993: last time the U.S. achieved projected 2013 domestic crude oil production of 6.9 million barrels per day.

Fuel economy

  • 27.5: miles per gallon fuel economy standard 1987-2010.
  • 54.5: miles per gallon fuel economy standard 2025.
  • $8,200: average savings in reduced gasoline purchases over the life of a 2025 model year car compared to a typical 2010 car.
  • 2 million: barrels of oil per day saved by 2025 due to modern fuel economy standards.

Oil production in federal lands and waters

  • 241 million: barrels of oil, total increase in oil from produced from public lands and waters under first three years of President Obama compared to last three years of President Bush.
  • 60 days or less: amount of time it should take rig operators to receive permits under Department of Interior reforms.
  • 7,000: approved permits to drill for oil on public lands and waters held by oil companies that have not begun exploring or developing them.
  • 2/3: of “acreage leased by [oil] industry lies idle” according to the Department of the Interior.

Keystone XL pipeline

  • None: amount of Canadian tar sands oil from Keystone XL pipeline guaranteed to be refined into fuel and sold in the U.S.
  • 0: number of new Canadian pipelines that will be built to transport tar sands oil to British Columbia to export to China, according to the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Hydraulic fracking

  • 1: federal regulation adopted under President Obama to regulate hydraulic fracking (requires reduction of smog and toxic air pollution from fracked and other wells).
  • 2: federal agencies that can establish standards to public health and vital resources from air and water pollution produced by fracking and other oil and gas production.

Big oil profits and tax breaks

  • $60 billion: in profits earned by the big 5 oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — during the first 6 months of 2012.
  • $137 billion: in profits earned by the big 5 oil companies in 2011.
  • $2.4 billion: amount of existing annual special tax breaks for the 5 largest oil companies, according the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
  • $2.3 billion: amount of new tax breaks for big 5 oil companies in House passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and also included in Gov. Romney’s economic plan, according to an analysis by Center for American Progress Action Fund.
  • $13: in federal oil and gas subsidies for every $1 in investment in renewable energy.

Oil industry support for Mitt Romney

  • $3.6 million: in direct contributions from the oil and gas industry to the Romney for President campaign.
  • $400 million: given by the Koch brothers and their network to pro-Romney super PACs and outside groups to broadcast misleading election ads to defeat Obama.

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

7 Responses to By The Numbers: The Facts About Gasoline Prices

  1. Emily says:

    Can you please add a bullet about how ending subsidies for oil companies will NOT raise prices at the pump? Scott Brown is saying that in every debate against Elizabeth Warren in the Mass Senate race.

  2. Lore says:

    The U.S. population is in for another sticker shock once the Keystone XL pipeline is finished. The once landlocked oil from Canada, that was only being supplied to the N.A. market, will then find new outlets for processed liquids off the continent. This will in effect reduce supplies and increase the price of WTI to reflect more closely the cost of Brent crude.

    Meanwhile the cost of producing Canadian tar sands oil and Bakken tight oil will go ever upward only blunting for a short time the rate of regional and global depletion.

    The quest to squeeze the last drop of oil out of our planetary reserves in a last ditch effort to maintain business as usual is a waste of what little inexpensive sources we have left in which to develop more sustainable alternatives. It’s a diversion that civilization will pay heavily for in the not too distant future.

  3. Zach says:

    Attacks based on gas prices, especially coming from someone who presumably knows why gas was so cheap in 2009, are just about the most dishonest sort of politics. It’s easy to halve the price of gas again; all you have to do is have a global economic crisis. Totally worth it. Gas was super cheap circa 2001, too, but most of us were better off leaving that recession behind even if we irrationally missed $1/gallon gas.

  4. squidboy6 says:

    Plus a report yesterday that the price of gas in California rose even while supplies went up. I’m sure that was as accidental as the causes of the accidents which were blamed for the price-rise.

    This happens every time there’s a Presidential Election in California and that’s most likely the result of hundreds of millions spent on gaming the system.

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Climate Portals shared a link.

    U.S. Pumps Most Oil Since 1997 as Energy Independence Grows
    U.S. oil production surged last week to the highest level since January 1997, reducing the country’s dependence on imported fuels as new technology unlocks crude trapped in shale formations.

  6. Joan Savage says:

    Gasoline prices in my area have been over $4/gallon for several weeks now. I don’t blame Obama, but it is still a fact that it is during his administration.

    The article statement is incorrect, or at least badly out of date, to say,

    “$4 per gallon: “The average [gasoline price] exceeded $4 a gallon for seven weeks during the summer of 2008, and it has never reached $4 under Obama” according to USA Today”

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I would have thought Americans would have more to worry about than this obsession with petrol prices, ME