The unrest in the Middle East is partly to blame; oil production in Libya is precarious (so what if Libya is in northern Africa and not the Middle East, exactly), and the Saudi government is quaking in their boots.
Our own government bears some of the blame, though; domestic decisions (arising mainly from the Deepwater Horizon spill) have led to a de facto ban on offshore drilling (in violation of the law!).
This is a great overreaction; while the 206 million gallons of spilt oil is a large amount, compared to the size of the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not even the proverbial drop in the bucket.
The Gulf is roughly 660 quadrillion gallons (660 x 10^15) in volume; that’s entirely too large to visualize, so let’s scale it down to something that’s easier to picture.
An olympic-sized swimming pool holds 660,000 gallons of water; if we were to spill an analogous amount of oil into the pool, we would have to dump in not quite 1/5 of a teaspoon of oil.
While the oil spill itself was roughly the size of 312 olympic-sized pools, the gulf is on the order of 1 trillion pools; the amount of water clearly dwarfs the amount of oil spilled into the gulf.
Fear of another spill (even if they are relatively benign, they still play poorly in the court of public opinion) has led the Obama administration to illegally cease all offshore permitting. In addition to depriving our markets of readily available oil, this ban has resulted in the loss of many jobs.
Since that oil is no longer available, we have had to turn ever more to the OPEC nations and their supply of oil; unfortunately for us, those countries are all in the midst of unrest. I wouldn’t be surprised if dissidents took out oil production equipment to deprive the government of their oil revenue.
And so, the price of gasoline spikes; a cynical man would speculate that the Obama administration is refusing to get involved in the burgeoning conflicts in the birthplace of algebra (and not much else since) as a favor to their oil industry cronies. After all, by not getting involved, look at how much the price of oil has gone up!
In all seriousness, if we are going to refrain from further entanglements in the OPEC world, we ought to focus far more on developing oil resources closer to home; oil rigs aren’t built and wells aren’t dug overnight or for free, and if we don’t start on them now, we might not be able to build them when we don’t have a choice.