Stories in the Report


Crude-pricing benchmark may follow pipeline to Houston

HOUSTON -- West Texas Intermediate oil's 30-year reign as the benchmark for setting prices for North American crude grades could be coming to an end.

The WTI contract with the New York Mercantile Exchange for trading in light sweet crude goes back to March 1983. Cushing, Okla., was designated as the price settlement point since traders had already converged around the city's massive storage facilities as a market mover after the U.S. government lifted oil price controls in 1981.

Cushing's storage capacity has grown exponentially over the past decade to absorb rising imports. But that growth has hit a ceiling as sellers struggle to move crude from storage tanks to customers.

Meanwhile, the oil industry is moving to develop the Houston Ship Channel as the future center for U.S. oil trading.

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Pipelines, pump prices fuel political theater with few hard truths

What do Libyan rebels, Wall Street traders, Federal Reserve bankers and anti-drilling greens have in common? Over the past year, members of Congress in both parties have variously blamed all four for the mercurial prices of oil and gas. The villain changes with the season and the ideological leanings of lawmakers in search of a scapegoat to soothe voters riled by the economic toll wreaked by expensive fuel. But as 2012 begins with President Obama and the oil industry hailing the nation's rise as a petroleum powerhouse, Washington fingers are beginning to point at the web of pipelines that ship crude between the five American refining districts and the booming Canadian oil sands.

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About This Report

With gasoline prices at record late-winter highs, Congress and the Obama administration are preparing for an all-out clash over pump prices that’s likely to last until Election Day. But as petroleum pricing seeps into nearly every political debate, factors influencing crude costs are complex, and policymakers may be powerless to do much about them. E&E takes a closer look at what’s driving oil and gas prices.

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