1. Pulled out of the ground in remote, inhospitible (in their politics and climate), technologically backward places
2. Shipped off around the world
3. Refined to specifications that vary from country to country (or, in the U.S., state to state)
4. Shipped again, as gasoline, to distribution points.
And 5. Pumped into your tank for a couple of bucks.
And I'm just talking about logistics. On top of that, every layer takes a profit, and OPEC monkeys with supplies to suit the whims/fiscal needs of the various scumbag "world leaders" with a stranglehold on power in petroleum-exporting countries. It's still a bargain, folks. From dead dinosaur to tank, cheaper than apple juice? F*ck you and your complaints.
Now the sticky wicket: the Exxon-Mobils and Conocos of the world. Are they gouging? Well, their CEOs aren't running to give back their bonuses or cut common stock prices in order to lower the cost of no-lead. But that's to be expected. On the other hand, they're not exactly pushing to create new refining capacity. The artificial scarcity of refining capacity inflates profits, so the oil companies aren't in a rush to change the situation. But since nobody will let them build a refinery anyway, it's not really their fault.
So what's the answer? Bernie Sanders, the totalitarian congressman from Vermont, was on the radio today calling for price controls. That's right, the same "solution" that worked so well back in the 70s. He also called for a push toward a hydrogen economy. A great idea, but -- as with ethanol -- you need energy to make the stuff in the first place, and that energy comes from -- you guessed it -- from fossil fuels.
In theory, nuclear power could gives us enough cheap energy to make hydrogen. But now that Sanders and his noble enviromentalist followers have legislated and litigated nuclear power into a corner, that's essentially off the table.
So we're stuck with fossil fuels, at least until the efficiency of other sources picks up. I would support a switch to ethanol. It's cheap, can use the same distribution as gasoline, and can be produced domestically. Producing it is not currently energy efficient, but that's something technology can cure, as we become better able to make use of cellulose wastes and byproducts. A little more nuclear power would go a long way here.
Plus, some of the costs inherent in ethanol can be recouped through a new, concise Middle East policy (i.e., "Shut up, and don't f*ck with Israel"). This would, in turn, reduce petro-funding to terrorists, since the Arab world's economy is a one-legged stool. Forward-thinking countries like the UAE know that it's just a matter of time, which is why they are pushing hard to diversify their economies quickly. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, only has oil and nomadic herding. And Venezuela has oil and, what, bauxite?
So gas is still cheap, replacement technologies improve every day, and in the long run the oil economies are headed over a cliff anyway. From where I sit, the sun is shining.