Education:Why Is Gas So Expensive?

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Grades 9-12/Social Studies; World History; US History

Time Required for completed lesson

Ninety to one-hundred twenty minutes dependent upon reading Lexile, detail and number of readings used, and time provided for research.


Social Studies: 6.1.12.D.15.a. Relate the role of America’s dependence on foreign oil to its economy and foreign policy. 6.1.12.B.16.a. Explain why natural resources (i.e., fossils fuels, food and water) continue to be a source of conflict, and analyze how the United States and other nations have addressed issues concerning the distribution and sustainability of natural resources. 6.1.12.C.16.c. Assess the impact of international trade, global business organizations, and overseas competition on the United States economy and workforce. 6.2.12.C.5.f. Evaluate the role of the petroleum industry in world politics, the global economy and the environment. 6.2.12.A.6.d. Determine the global impact of increased population growth, migration, and changes in urban-rural populations on natural resource and land use. C.2.12.C.b. Compare and contrast demographic trends in industrialized and developing nations, and evaluate the potential impact of these trends on the economy, political stability and use of resources.

Common Core State Standards

R.H.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

R.H.11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

R.H.11-12.9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

WHST.11-12.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Materials Required

Internet access, LCD projector Copies or articles At least one computer per cooperative learning group, ideally one per student

Anticipatory Set

1. What is the law of supply and demand? Are there ever other factors that control the prices of products and services? Student responses will vary. 2. What impact does the rising price of oil and gas have on the quality of people’s lives? 3. What powers do the President and Congress have to control the price of an international commodity?


Tell students that they are serving on a presidential blue ribbon panel created to work on the high price of oil and gas. They are entrusted with the weighty responsibility of offering solutions to one of the biggest economic problems of our time.

Students will watch CNN video, listen to the first 6:10 of the Diane Rehm Show, and read one of the articles listed in the resources below.

In cooperative learning groups they will identify the various explanations for what causes the price of oil (and gasoline) to rise. The answers will include factors like instability/production disruption, distribution logistics, investor speculation, and refinery capacity.

The teacher will debrief in a full class discussion, listing the various factors on a chalk or whiteboard. Each cooperative learning group will be assigned one of the factors identified by the class. Using the Internet, students will research the assigned factor and propose three possible actions to be taken by the U.S. government to serve as possible solutions to the factor causing increased oil and gas prices.

Depending on the time allotted by the teacher, student findings can be presented orally, in a written report, or via Power Point presentation. If time is allotted to allow for written findings, inform students that their solutions will be sent to their Congressional representatives.


Students will engage in a variety of cooperative learning assignments and participate in class discussions. Comprehension questions and definitions can be assigned for the readings appropriate to various levels of student ability. Assessments for completed work will vary based on upon teacher’s requirements for different types of work.


Students will use literacy skills throughout the lesson. Science skills will be employed to analyze problems as well as offer and critique possible solutions.


Cooperative learning groups should be designed to include students of varying abilities. Teachers may choose to use short excerpts from the readings, assign vocabulary exercises or practice summarizing skills in the course of reading.


Share the following quotation from former Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani: “The Stone Age came to an end not for a lack of stones, and the oil age will end, but not for a lack of oil.” Have students do a think-pair-share exercise in response to the quotation.


Kofi Bofah, “Causes of High Fuel Prices,”

Ali Velsher, CNN Video (4:17), “Explain it to me: What causes high gas prices?”,, “Playing Politics with Gasoline Prices,”

The Diane Rehm Show (51:30), “Causes and Implications of Rising Gas Prices,” (Transcript: – First 6:10

Andrew Sharpless, “The real reason for high gas prices,” Includes links to several interesting and relevant charts.

Kimberly Amadeo, “Why Are Gas Prices So High?”

Submitted by

Bob Fenster