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ST. LOUIS — A long-time chemical engineer in the oil industry and a senior energy columnist for Forbes says it’s time people know the truth about what’s behind soaring gas prices.   

People now feel lucky to find gas for under $4-a-gallon in St. Louis and they’re looking for someone to blame.  President Biden, Vladimir Putin, and oil industry leaders are the most often suspect culprits.   

A diesel fill-up at $4.89-a-gallon cost a driver more than $209 in Maryland Heights, Thursday. 

He said that was cheap compared to where he came from in Tennessee.

Our current fuel crisis has certainly been “fueled” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting U.S. ban on Russian oil imports, according to Rapier.   

However, it’s rooted in the Covid19 ‘stay home’ orders of 2020, he said.  

The oil industry crashed amid plummeting demand then with U.S. production falling from nearly 13 million barrels-a-day to 9.7 million, Rapier said.  Demand recovered, pump prices started climbing,  and oil companies started ramping up production months before President Biden took office.   

“When supply collapsed you had companies that went bankrupt.  You had people that left the oil industry permanently.  When demand started to recover it’s not like going back out and turning a knob and cranking production back up,” Rapier said.  

“Our drilling rigs have risen by 60% in the last year,” he continued. “So, oil companies are drilling.  Production is coming up but was still about 1.5 million barrels a day below the pre-Covid numbers.  That’s a major factor in causing oil prices to rise because demand has recovered.”  

Experts expect U.S. oil prices to end up closer to $75-$80 dollars a barrel, down from close to $130 this week.   

Moving forward with the Keystone pipeline, stalled by President Biden, could help with future crises, according to Rapier.  

“In the case of crisis like this that pipeline would have been there.  We would have had potentially another 830,000 barrels-a-day coming down that pipeline that could have been relied on in an emergency,” he said.   

Oil companies ride the highs and lows of the marketplace and are unlikely to base production projections on the current inflated prices.  He expects those prices to flatten out at $75-$80-a-barrel over the next year.   

A shift in tone from both the Biden administration and oil industry leaders could speed up the timetable for relief at the gas pumps, he said.   

“We’re in a crisis.  The administration needs to be talking to the oil companies about what can you do, how can we help, how can we work together to boost oil production,” Rapier said.   

If the market settles at $75-$80-a-barrel oil, gas prices should settle at closer to $3-a-gallon, instead of $4-$5.