Publications: Notes at the Margin

The Public and Political View: Oil Be Damned (October 10, 2022)


A clear message is emerging today: Most of the world’s citizenry does not give a damn about the energy industry, especially the oil industry.

  • Oil executives complain that strategic stocks should not be drawn at current rates because it endangers energy security. Anywhere between 1990 and 2021, their view would have been heard. Not today. Governments are selling strategic reserve oil and will continue to sell it, effectively cutting Saudi Arabia’s income by $250 million per day.
  • Oil industry officials warn that the United States should not limit petroleum product exports. Ninety-nine percent of the public does not care what these individuals think. Only The Wall Street Journal editors seem bothered. US gasoline and diesel fuel shipments abroad will be reduced by the US Commerce Department.
  • Energy industry officials in Europe warn that governments should not impose windfall taxes on them. The politicians are ignoring them. Taxes will rise.
  • Free market proponents do not want fuel prices, particularly natural gas prices, to be capped in Europe. They, too, are being snubbed.
  • US State Department officials, executives from the major oil companies, and the US financial community have worked long and hard to keep US antitrust regulations from being applied to oil-exporting countries and their state-owned oil firms. Nine US presidents have protected OPEC nations. Today, though, forthcoming legislation will eliminate that safeguard. The public will cheer as the US assets of oil-exporting nations come under risk.
  • While most European Union governments have joined in moderating the impact of high energy prices on their industries, Germany has broken from the pack. Its citizens will applaud this act, and the other EU nations can do little in response.

The message emerging from Washington, DC, and European capitals is unequivocal: the energy industry, especially the oil industry, no longer has a seat at the policy table. The energy industry’s decision to stay neutral regarding the Ukraine war while reaping huge wartime profits has not gone unnoticed by the public and politicians. As governments act to protect their citizens, the energy industry now has little sway; in fact, it will not be consulted at all.


Our primary focus this week is on the pending US controls on gasoline and diesel fuel exports. These measures will likely take advantage of existing US Commerce Department regulations as the oil industry sits helpless. The overt actions will generate public goodwill. The public will not notice additional strategic reserve sales, another topic here, but these sales will frustrate the price aspirations of oil producers and oil-exporting nations. We begin, however, by posing a question that has no answer yet: Would Russia’s use of tactical nuclear weapons speed the end of fossil fuels?


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