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High gas prices falsely attributed to a shutdown of US oil production

March 10, 2022 GMT
A car is shown at a gas pump, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at a gas station in North Miami, Fla. On Friday, March 11, 2022, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming gas prices are skyrocketing because oil production has been “shut down” in the United States. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A car is shown at a gas pump, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at a gas station in North Miami, Fla. On Friday, March 11, 2022, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming gas prices are skyrocketing because oil production has been “shut down” in the United States. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A car is shown at a gas pump, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at a gas station in North Miami, Fla. On Friday, March 11, 2022, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming gas prices are skyrocketing because oil production has been “shut down” in the United States. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A car is shown at a gas pump, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at a gas station in North Miami, Fla. On Friday, March 11, 2022, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming gas prices are skyrocketing because oil production has been “shut down” in the United States. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A car is shown at a gas pump, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, at a gas station in North Miami, Fla. On Friday, March 11, 2022, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming gas prices are skyrocketing because oil production has been “shut down” in the United States. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

CLAIM: Gas prices are skyrocketing because oil production has been “shut down” in the United States.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Oil production has not been “shut down” in the U.S., multiple experts told The Associated Press. The U.S. produced just as many barrels of crude oil per day in 2021 as it did in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Gas prices are rising for several reasons, including higher demand after the easing of pandemic restrictions, experts said.

THE FACTS: As prices at the pump hit a record high on Tuesday, social media users shared a graphic made on Gasbuddy.com, which tracks gas prices nationally, to falsely claim the increases are the result of a shutdown in U.S. oil production by President Joe Biden.

“BIDEN SHUT DOWN OUR PRODUCTION SO NOW WE DEPEND ON OTHERS,” said one Facebook post, sharing the graphic which tracked the average retail price of gasoline over an 18 month period ending in February 2022. It shows prices increasing from the end of November 2020, the month Biden was elected president, through the end of February 2022.

“Everyone here knows gas is high because they shut down production in the US…But here is an extremely simple breakdown for people with short memories (putting it kindly). This information should be all over social media right now,” the post said.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said that users can create graphs using GasBuddy data on the website. The graphic circulating with the post was not created by his company, although the numbers used are accurate. But he and other experts say the reasons behind rising gas prices are being misrepresented.

First, there has not been a shutdown of oil production. The U.S. was producing 11.185 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2021, compared with an average of 11.283 million barrels per day in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The latest data shows that for the week of March 4, 2022, the U.S. is producing 11.6 million barrels per day.

While there was a dip in oil production in February 2021 due to winter storms in Texas, said Mark Finley, a fellow in energy and global oil at Rice University in Houston, the U.S. remains the world’s biggest producer of crude oil.

There are many reasons gasoline prices have pushed higher. The biggest driver is the price of crude oil, which has been rising over the past year.

As more people get on the road after being cooped up during the pandemic, oil and gas suppliers that had scaled back production during the pandemic lull in demand are struggling to keep up. And decisions by the OPEC+ oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, to only modestly increase the oil they released to the market kept prices high.

Aiming to reduce prices, Biden and leaders of other oil importing countries decided to release more oil from strategic reserves, but those actions had little impact on rising prices.

Then Russia, a major oil supplier to the world, invaded Ukraine, and oil prices globally took a steeper climb. Many buyers have shunned Russian crude, uninterested in providing financial support to Russia as it wages war on Ukraine or anticipating sanctions that could make the oil unsellable. With less oil that people are willing to buy on the market, prices for gasoline pushed even higher.

“The nature of a global marketplace means that if something goes wrong anywhere, prices go up everywhere,” Finley said.

Top Republicans blame Biden for the higher gas prices, and assail the White House for promoting climate change-fighting environmental measures that they said had hurt U.S. energy production domestically and helped drive fuel prices up.

Some in the oil and gas industry say that Biden’s policies, including revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit, have discouraged companies from drilling. But in fact, oil and gas drilling has increased under Biden. Now, companies in the U.S. are ramping up drilling but also dealing with tight supplies of rigs, trucks and labor that they need to supply more oil.

The Biden administration did issue an executive order to pause oil and gas drilling on federal land in January 2021. But a federal judge in Louisiana blocked that decision in June.

“I will reaffirm that President Biden’s policies coming into the White House did not help. But overall what is the active player in driving price? It’s this huge pandemic recovery coupled with the current events with Russia,” De Haan said.

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Associated Press writer Cathy Bussewitz in New York contributed to this report.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.