Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Price of Oil

Could I have been the only person in the world who heard about the outrageous hike in gas prices on the West Coast and thought:  ENRON???

It wasn't that long ago that the price of gas was dropping and the headlines were predicting low gas prices through the beginning of 2013.  Of course, it doesn't matter how little we use, or how much of a surplus is stored, unless the oil and gas companies are allowed to pollute and destroy the environment with old refineries and new fracking sites, there will always be a justification for raising gas and oil prices.

Is anyone else tired of getting yanked around by the fuel companies?

Our media outlets alarmingly spout whatever line the fuel companies pass down about the cause of whatever hike is going on:  an exceptionally cold winter, a warm summer, a big hurricane season, a drought, a flood, too much gas guzzling, an unusually warm winter, and my favorite current scapegoat:  the refineries.

Yes, the oil industry has made big profits from failing to keep up their refineries, much less investing in improved infrastructure or more efficient (and clean) production methods.

And this go-round, the goal is obvious.  This time, the oil companies are going to hold the consumer hostage until every last vestige of clean fuel regulation is gone.  It started with Governor Jerry Brown lifting the restriction that does not allow a dirtier "winter grade" fuel to be blended and sold until November 1.  Of course, while our media talks about how soon this will lower gas prices, they are also reporting that "it depends."

It depends on "pipeline issues."  To me that says that it's time to squeeze the politicians, just before the election, and scare the voters, who will then elect those in favor of the tried-and-true "drill baby, drill" mantra.

It also depends on what kind of winter we have.  Except that it doesn't.  Because the price of gas will continue to go up until people scream bloody murder, and then will creep down, till we all jump back in our cars in relief, and then it will stabilize at a higher price than the last time we played this game.

Why do we continue to allow the oil industry to make ungodly profits while running down their refineries and passing the cost of their negligence on to us?

This is the hostage situation that big business has thrived on for decades.  Politicians pass on the threat to consumers that if we don't ease regulations, cut taxes, increase corporate handouts, the (name-your-industry) will be forced to pass the higher prices on to us.

And when they do that anyway, their politicians and the media report that there are extenuating circumstances that can be fixed with -- that's right -- deregulation, tax cuts and increased corporate handouts.

So my heroes Henry Waxman and Dianne Feinstein are calling for investigations.  But those heroes in Congress are few these days.  Which means that the funds for regulators, and the clout that they have, continue to be eroded.  The investigations will be short and meaningless.  Should the cry become too loud and the findings threaten to go public, the price of gas will drop, for a short time.  And when we take our eyes off the ball, which we will do, the fuel industry will repeat the cycle, until they've made another healthy profit, and their hostages -- us -- start to squeal again.

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