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  • Getting A Grip On Gas Prices

       April 25, 2006

    I seldom listen to the Rush Limbaugh show but I was in the car and my radio is tuned to a talk radio station. Since the host was somebody other than Rush, I left it on. What struck me was the fact that several callers complaining about gas prices wanted "something done" about the profits that oil companies are making. It's one thing for Ted Kennedy to want to redistribute income, after all he's basically a socialist. But for dittoheads to reject the free market and restrict companies that are legally making profits - which is what they are required to do for their shareholders - is a bit shocking. You might want to check your 401k before you complain too much - you may well own some of that stock, and be a beneficiary of the Eeeevil Big Oil Profits. It may also be shocking that an oil company executive is receiving a 400 million dollar bonus, but that is between the company and it's shareholders. Nobody else.

    I'm not pleased about gas prices either, but according to the US Dept of Energy, the breakdown for a gallon of gas is this:

    54% - Crude oil
    21% - Taxes
    19% - Refining
    6% - Distribution and Marketing

    According to the DOE, prices are high because

    A major factor influencing gasoline prices in 2005 was the increase in crude oil prices. The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, which started the year at about $42 per barrel, reached $70 per barrel in early September. Crude oil prices rose throughout 2004 and 2005, as global oil demand increased dramatically, stretching capacity along the entire oil market system, from crude oil production to transportation (tankers and pipelines) to refinery capacity, nearly to its limits. With minimal spare capacity in the face of the potential for significant supply disruptions from numerous sources, oil prices were high throughout 2005.

    In addition, Hurricane Katrina had a devastating impact on U.S. gasoline markets, initially taking out more than 25 percent of U.S. crude oil production and 10-15 percent of U.S. refinery capacity. On top of that, major oil pipelines that feed the Midwest and the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico area were shut down or forced to operate at reduced rates for a significant period. With such a large drop in supply, prices spiked dramatically. Because two pipelines that carry gasoline were down initially, some stations actually ran out of gasoline temporarily. However, once the pipelines were restored to full capacity and some of the refineries were restarted, retail prices began to fall. Increased gasoline imports in the fall of 2005, in part stemming from the International Energy Agency’s emergency release, also added downward pressure to gasoline prices. However, retail prices are likely to remain elevated as long as some refineries remain shut down and the U.S. gasoline market continues to stretch supplies to their limit.

    I seriously doubt there is any price gouging going on. The fact that those kinds of ideas are being floated on The Pinhead O'Reilly Factor is cause for concern (that O'Reilly has been hitting the sauce). The fact that liberals are not picking it up and running with it is extremely telling. If Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean, along with their MSM minions, are not screaming about a "Rethuglican price gouging conspiracy" then I feel safe in saying no such conspiracy exists. Because if there were any grounds whatsoever for them to say it, believe me, they would. By all means, have an investigation. It's not like they're going to spend the tax money used for an investigation responsibly anywhere else, so they might as well. But nothing will come of it.

    The Federal gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon. State tax varies; here in Louisiana it's 20 cents. Rather than some wacky corporate income redistribution scheme, a tax triggered by "excessive" profits, the government could drop the price of gasoline right now by lowering the taxes. In spite of the Laffer curve, they probably won't, so consumers can wait for the market to change and get a grip on their gasoline use by slowing down, keeping the tires properly inflated (switch to nitrogen if possible), getting a tune-up, and just driving less.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at April 25, 2006 03:10 PM

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    #  April 25th, 2006 8:10 PM      TheUnabrewer
    The Democrats aren't hammering the issue now because they're waiting until November. Campaigning candidates are hammering the issue a little bit.  



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