The Oil Gouge

Crisis in faraway oil country. Gasoline prices here zoom upward. The politicians and the motorists denounce the avaricious big oil companies. They demand investigations and rollbacks. Nothing happens. Deja vu! Sound familiar?

Well, here goes Exxon and its oil brethren again! There is a three month supply of gasoline and an oil glut. Yet the oil companies that bought this petroleum at pre-Kuwait invasion prices are charging the public as if they were bought at post-Kuwait invasion prices.

The oil companies’ feeble response is that the prices to the refineries in this country go up immediately to reflect today’s crude oil prices. Really now. The crude oil companies own most of these refineries so they are raising prices to themselves and laughing all the way to their banks.

The flaw in the oil industry’s propaganda is that prices at the gasoline pump do riot go down, when crude oil prices plummet. anything like they go up, when crude oil certain prices surge. Four years ago crude oil, now at about $27 a barrel, was down as low as $10 to $11 a barrel. Oh, how small and slow was the decline in prices then at the gasoline pump.

This reminds one of a similar oil industry technique, when in the 1920s they put lead into gasoline, they raised prices. And in the Seventies when they started taking lead out of gasoline, they also raised prices.

This “heads I win, tails you lose” maneuver does not fool many people. But it does seem to get by our supposed government defenders, especially when deregulation is their philosophy.

Reagan’s deregulation programs rendered motorists defenseless. First he gave notice that he was not going to strengthen the fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles, and abandoned the fledgling energy efficiency rules for appliances.In addition, starting in 1985, he gave GM and Ford four straight years of waivers from having to meet the measly 27.5 miles per gallon standard for their automobile fleets.

In Reagan’s second term, he drove a repeal of the Windfall Profits tax through Congress along with a repeal of the tax credit for the use of renewable solar energy. Finally he pressed and got a repeal of the federal 55 mph limit, thereby allowing states to raise the speed limit to 55 mph (which also increased highway casualties).

Reagan’s policies amounted to encouraging much energy waste and stopped cold the federal governments momentum toward more energy conservation. The budgets for energy conservation and solar energy were virtually destroyed in Reagan’s. Department of Energy. Gone also was the federal authority to tax oil industry profiteering.

Whenever people decide to vote for a presidential candidate, they need to look beyond the smiles, symbols and smooth rhetoric, and focus on the practical policy consequences for their pocketbooks and the rest of their well-being.

So now what can people do — other than try to reduce their unnecessary car use, use more carpools for commuting, or try what good mass transit that is available?

One way, pending some future governmental effectiveness in protecting your rights, is to reduce the dollars you spend for oil company products. About 4 billion a year is spent by motorists for high octane gasoline that their own car manual says is not needed. So look at your owner’s manual and see if you were paying $20 or more per gallon for high octane fuel needlessly and making the oil companies richer as a result.

Next, shop for off-brand gasoline stations and save yourself some money. Gasoline is gasoline and often the gasoline in the off-brand station’s tanks, come from the same brand-name tankard-truck that the Texaco or Mobil station down the way.

Elections are coming. Get your back slapping political candidates to pledge in writing a restoration of the Windfall Profits tax and strong fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, furnaces and other oil uses.

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