Skip to Content

Oil Drilling Won’t Help This Summer’s Gas Prices

Obama agrees to speed drilling, but don’t expect it to help gas prices.

Whenever gas prices spike, calls mount to increase oil production in the United States. Then experts point out that this won’t make a dent in gasoline prices. And politicians ignore them and keep calling for more oil drilling. Today President Obama at least partly went along with these calls by announcing plans to expand drilling in Alaska, and speed new exploration offshore.

There may be good reasons to increase oil production in the United States–such as increasing high paying jobs, increasing the revenues of oil companies, and reducing the U.S. trade imbalance—but driving down gas prices isn’t one of them. Increasing drilling won’t decrease gas prices much for several reasons. The increase would be a drop in the bucket of worldwide oil production; it will take many years before oil starts to flow from new wells; and if prices fall too low, OPEC can just drop production a little, causing oil prices to rise again. What’s more, gas prices are also related to a factor that’s separate from oil production: refinery output, which can be hurt by things like hurricanes and floods.

Some numbers: Opening the Arctic Wildlife National Reserve to drilling could lead to production levels that would constitute “between 0.4 to 1.2 percent of total world oil consumption by 2030” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That could decrease oil prices by about one dollar, unless OPEC steps in, in which case it wouldn’t do anything to oil prices at all. Drilling in the Outer Continental shelf could have a similarly small impact: by 2030, it could alter gas prices by three cents per gallon.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.