The AP analysis used Energy Department figures for regular unleaded gas prices adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars, oil production and oil demand. The figures go back to January 1976, the earliest the Energy Department keeps figures on unleaded gas prices. University of South Carolina statistics professor John Grego, New York University statistics professor Edward Melnick and David Peterson, a retired Duke University statistics professor, looked at the analysis, ran their own calculations, including several complicated formulas, and came to the same conclusion.
When U.S. production goes up, the price of gas "is certainly not going down," Melnick said. "The data does not suggest that whatsoever."
The calculations "help make the point that U.S. production and demand have little to do with the price of gasoline in the U.S., and lend support to the notion that there is not a great deal we in the U.S., acting alone, can do to affect the price of gasoline," Peterson wrote in an email. He pointed out that Energy Department figures show that gas prices in the U.S. seem to rise and fall similarly to gas prices in Europe, showing that it has little to do with American drilling.
And that's the key. It's a world market, economists say.
Unlike natural gas or electricity, the United States alone does not have the power to change the supply-and-demand equation in the world oil market, said Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at MIT. American oil production is about 11 percent of the world's output, so even if the U.S. were to increase its oil production by 50 percent - that is more than drilling in the Arctic, increased public-lands and offshore drilling, and the Canadian pipeline would provide - it would at most cut gas prices by 10 percent.
"There are not many markets where the United States can't impose its will on market outcomes," Knittel said. "This is one we can't, and it's hard for the average American to understand that and it's easy for politicians to feed off that."
If drilling activity rises around the globe for a sustained period of time, gasoline prices can fall as that new supply eventually finds its way to market, but the U.S. can't do it alone, oil analysts say.
Politicians - especially those in the party that's not occupying the White House - have long harped on high gas prices when expedient. Then-Sen. Barack Obama said in 2008, when he was running for president, that "here in Ohio, you're paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas, 2-1/2 times what it cost when George Bush took office."
But Obama, who has seen gas prices go up 73 percent since he took office, was singing a different tune last week in his weekly radio address: "The truth is: The price of gas depends on a lot of factors that are often beyond our control. Unrest in the Middle East can tighten global oil supply. Growing nations like China or India adding cars to the road increases demand. But one thing we should control is fraud and manipulation that can cause prices to spike even further."
The political party of the president doesn't seem to matter to the price at the pump either. Since 1976, the average monthly gas price, adjusted for inflation, during Democratic presidencies has been $2.25; under Republicans it's been $2.34. Obama had the steepest monthly average at $3.05 and Bill Clinton the cheapest at $1.68.
When Bush and running mate Dick Cheney campaigned in 2000, they argued that as oil executives they could get oil prices down, with Bush saying, "I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply."
Yet it was during the last few months of Bush's term in 2008 that gas prices hit their highest: $4.27 when adjusted for inflation.
Associated Press writers Dina Cappiello and Matthew Daly in Washington and Jonathan Fahey in New York contributed to this report.