Public Affairs Discussion Group to host former CEO, chair of BP of America

headshot of Steve PercyThe Public Affairs Discussion Group will welcome Steven W. Percy, former CEO and chairman of British Petroleum (BP) of America, on Friday, March 6, for a discussion titled, “What Explains the Price of Gasoline?” The meeting will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Kelvin Smith Library’s Dampeer Room.

The price of gasoline and other petroleum products is a significant part of personal budgets and influence on the economy. Price spikes in 1973 and 1979 precipitated recessions. 2014, however, saw a nearly unprecedented collapse in prices. According to AAA, the average price for regular gasoline fell by more than a third. What can explain the falling gas prices?

The simple answer says there is supply and demand on a world market, and supplies have increased especially due to new extraction techniques in the United States. But the scale of price changes far exceeds the shifts in supply, and wide variations in price across the country show that the world market is only one influence. Both this volatility and variation are nothing new. Nor are arguments that public policy could have major effects on prices. So if public policy matters so much, what recent policies mattered (if any)?

Percy can help identify questions and make sense of answers. He joined the Standard Oil Company in 1976 and, after its purchase by BP, served as chair and CEO of BP America from 1996 to 1999. After retiring from BP he was head of Phillips Petroleum’s Refining, Marketing and Transportation Company. He has been visiting professor at the University of Michigan, consultant to many boards and commissions, and for 2012-13 served as interim dean of Cleveland State University’s School of Business.

Since 1989, faculty, emeriti, students and staff have gathered on Fridays for a brown-bag lunch and to discuss topics in public affairs.

For updates and more information about the Friday lunch schedule, visit