You could substitute a newspaper article from June 2008 with today’s gas price stories, and no one would know the difference. The story is the same: politicians blaming speculators and big oil while ignoring supply and demand issues and the impact of a weak dollar on oil prices.
It’s been easy for politicians to point the finger of blame at oil companies since the Gulf spill—although a large majority of Americans support offshore drilling. When politicians attack big oil, it’s important to remember who owns these companies and where that money goes.
Mutual funds and other firms hold almost 30 percent of oil stocks. Pension funds hold 27 percent; individual investors hold 23 percent; 14 percent is held in Individual Retirement Accounts; other institutional investments hold 5 percent; and corporate management holds 1.5 percent. That’s right: corporate management holds just 1.5 percent.
Oil and gas shares—benefitting all of those retirees and individual investors—are doing quite well. Kyle Isakower, vice president of regulatory and economic policy at the American Petroleum Institute, writes:
Twenty-seven percent of America’s oil and natural gas company shares are held by pension funds, and those holdings are providing a significantly larger return than other assets in state pension plans in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a new study conducted by Robert Shapiro, chairman of the economic advisory firm Sonecon and former Undersecretary of Commerce for President Bill Clinton.
While oil and natural gas stocks made up 3.1 to 5 percent of public pension holdings in the four states studied, they accounted for up to 11.6 percent of the returns from 2005 to 2008. The impact is even greater when looking at the two largest public pension funds in each state, covering public school employees and state government workers. Oil and natural gas holdings made up 3.3 to 4.8 percent of these funds but contributed as much as 12.2 percent to the funds’ total gains from 2005 to 2009. In comparing the performance of oil and natural gas companies against all other assets within these two largest funds, oil and natural gas returned, at a minimum, nearly three times that of all other assets (2.9x to 4.4x).
Increasing the supply of oil can help offset rising demand, and it can be a huge boon for the American economy. Along with the increased production, jobs, and royalty revenue coming into the government, it can help boost stocks, mutual funds, IRAs, and pension funds owned by millions of Americans.
Nicolas Loris is a Research Assistant at The Heritage Foundation . http://www.heritage.org/ Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies. Loris studies energy, environment and regulation issues such as the economic impacts of climate change legislation, a free market approach to nuclear energy and the effects of environmental policy on energy prices and the economy.