Gas prices during the oil spill, an update on the Fort Hood shooting among questions to Ask AP

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ask AP: Oil spill gas prices, Fort Hood shooting

So much can change the price of gasoline, yet prices have stayed low despite the Gulf oil spill. Curiosity about gas prices has inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

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Do you remember when even a teardrop of oil spilled, or when seasonal gas formulas changed, the price of gasoline would rise? We have millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico — why hasn’t the price of gasoline gone up at the pumps no matter which gas station you go to?

Philip James Jarosz

Buffalo, N.Y.

It’s a matter of markets trumping the environment. Oil and gasoline supplies in the U.S. remain well above normal and demand remains weak coming out of the Great Recession. The nationwide average retail gasoline price is about 13 cents lower than when the spill began.

At the time that the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sunk, oil prices were falling over worries that the European debt crisis was going to thwart demand for crude. Those lower prices continued to make their way to drivers in the form of cheaper gasoline prices. Analysts had been saying for weeks that crude prices had moved too far too fast.

Soon after the spill began, there were worries that it would keep tankers from bringing imported oil to Gulf ports and taking refined product out.

Typically, spills don’t have an influence on retail gasoline prices, said Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service.

After the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989, prices did go up briefly on the mistaken assumption that the trans-Alaska pipeline would be shut down, he said.

As far as seasonal increases in gasoline prices, that still occurs.

Refineries produce more expensive blends of gasoline in the spring and summer to reduce pollution in warmer weather. Also, gasoline prices tend to rise in the spring on presumption that demand will pick up. Prices then drop in the fall and winter.

Mark Williams

AP Energy Writer

Columbus, Ohio

What’s going on with that psychiatrist that killed those people at Fort Hood? I haven’t heard anything more on that.

Cyndi Anderson

Oregon, Ohio

Maj. Nidal Hasan has been in custody since shortly after the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood in Texas. Paralyzed after being shot by police, Hasan was transferred from the hospital to a county jail housing military inmates in April. Hasan is to appear in a military courtroom Oct. 4 for his Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding in which a military official hears witness testimony to determine whether the case should go to trial. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the worst shooting on a U.S. military post. Military prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Angela K. Brown

AP Correspondent

Fort Worth, Texas

Why does the Senate allow secret holds on nominees? What’s the point and why are these holds secret?

Hammad Khan

Louisville, Ky.

The use of holds is not a formal part of Senate rules, but has become more prevalent in recent years as the Senate conducts more business by “unanimous consent,” where all 100 senators agree on an issue and no roll call vote is needed. In principle, a hold is a means for a senator to temporarily delay action on a bill until any remaining questions are answered.

Senators were comfortable with the holder remaining unidentified because it allowed for lingering problems to be worked out behind the scenes, without unneeded publicity. But the situation has changed significantly as the Senate has become more partisan and lawmakers, mainly from the minority party, have more often used holds not to clarify last-minute questions but to disrupt or stop the majority’s agenda. A hold attached by a single senator can force the majority to come up with 60 votes just to get a bill or a nomination on the floor, often an impossible task.

While few senators are calling for an outright ban on holds, many from both parties now say that colleagues who have objections to a nomination or bill should be required to go public and explain the reasons for their objections.

Jim Abrams

Associated Press Writer


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