Tracking gas prices seems like a full time job, and there’s an entire industry devoted to alerting consumers about changes in prices at the pump. For commercial drivers, what happens in an OPEC country inevitably affects the bottom line. The fall of 2017 has been, to say the least, exciting when it comes to fuel prices.
First, we’re feeling the effects domestically from natural disasters, particularly Hurricane Harvey’s effect on oil refineries. Hurricane damage throughout the Southeastern states and in island territories, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, has also blocked shipping routes and resulted in geographic fuel shortages. Repairing the damage will take time and massive amounts of financial support, especially on the islands.
Second, political forces have taken Saudi Arabia by storm. Any time there’s political instability, the markets kind of flip out. Volatility means risk, and risk excites traders. In this case, the risk was created by a series of arrests ordered by the Saudi crown prince. This caused the price of crude oil to go up.
Man-made surges in the price of fuel aren’t limited to one-time events. OPEC regularly creates artificial shortages in order to control the global market. Until cars and trucks run on batteries, sunshine, and/or fairy dust, those of us at the gas pump remain subject to their decisions.
Ironically, the increased storms damaging oil infrastructure can be chalked up to climate change caused by burning fossil fuels. However, we didn’t quit oil in the 1970s when prices surged, and analysts aren’t declaring doomsday for oil yet. Prices will continue fluctuating, and we’ll continue managing. The oil and gas industry has a knack for self-preservation, and every tense period of expensive petroleum is inevitably followed by a sigh of relief when prices drop again.