It's one of those perennial claims that gets whispered every four years when the summer gas price spiral begins - Saudi Arabia hikes its oil output just before U.S. presidential elections in order to help the Oval Office occupant.
Somebody who heard it from somebody else passed it along to me earlier today, so I did a little digging into the enthralling subject of Saudi oil output. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) helpfully maintains mountains of data on such topics, so I downloaded the spreadsheet showing the monthly Saudi oil output going back to 1973.
Then Jennifer Peebles, the soon-to-be data-meister with the newly formed special reporting team here at The Washington Examiner did a little formula work and came up with these numbers in response to the question of whether Saudi oil output goes up or down during the months of August, September and October in U.S. election years:
"If you mean only presidential election years (the earliest one in this set would be 1976, Carter-Ford), I get these numbers for those three months:
8082.7 (thousand barrels per day) for all the Augusts
8006.9 for all the Septembers
8262.2 for the Octobers
"If you mean all election years, as in, for members of Congress (every two years), I get these numbers for those three months:
8251.5 for the Augusts
7873.9 for the Septembers
7900.8 for the Octobers"
In other words, it appears the Saudis do increase oil production slightly - roughly 180,000 barrels per day, or 5.4 million barrels for the month - between September and October of presidential elections, but they increase it only a little - 27,000 barrels - every two years.
But, since world global oil consumption is around 86 million barrels per day, an increase of 180,000 per day from the Saudis isn't likely to put a dent in U.S. gas prices at the pump in the weeks before voters choose the next president.
Or maybe, as a Hill friend said earlier today when apprised of the preceding numbers, “it’s probably amplified because consumption wanes at that time of the year, but it’s not very much. They’re probably just doing enough to tell the sitting president that they are trying to help.”
So, next time somebody forwards an email to you that claims the Saudis are going to help President Obama win a second term by stabilizing the price of gas for U.S. consumers in October, you might want to show them this blog post.