The Modesto Bee
Does anyone actually believe the oil refiners’ current crop of excuses for spiking gasoline prices?
We didn’t think so.
But let’s look at them, just for a moment:
– A burst pipeline in Arizona caused prices in California to skyrocket. That’s an interesting theory, but stupid on its face. Some of the nation’s biggest refineries are on this side of the pipeline break, meaning there should be more gas in California. More of a commodity usually means it’s cheaper. Besides, the pipeline runs between Phoenix and Texas.
– The blackout on the East Coast forced refineries to shut down, sending up gas prices everywhere. Another nice try but hardly believable. The nation is divided into five regions by the people who make gas. Those regions, essentially, don’t share the commodity. The Western refineries were not affected by the blackout — this time. Oddly, gas prices in Queens, N.Y., were $1.68 a gallon Friday afternoon. That’s about 35 cents less than than it was in Livingston.
– The Europeans had been selling a lot more gas to us, but now they’re selling in Europe. Hardly. California has its own formulation for gas, not used in Europe. Salida is a long, long way from Seville, Spain.
– Things are unstable in Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq. Duh. Things are always unstable somewhere. The price of a barrel of Saudi crude was about $28 Monday. That’s actually a little less than it was last year at this time — when gas cost $1.56 per gallon in Modesto; today, a gallon of gas cost $2.06.
Oddly, the refineries haven’t had to resort to their old standby — they’ve had to switch from making gasoline to (heating oil, jet fuel, diesel — take your pick). But that excuse is one of the most aggravating. Historically, more people travel on Labor Day weekend than at any other time of the year. This year, the number will reach 33 million, according to AAA of Northern California. So to “divert” oil to anything except gasoline is ridiculous — unless you’re trying to limit the commodity, thereby driving up the price.
Many people feel it is no coincidence that gas prices rise just before a big travel holiday. According to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a nonprofit run by Harvey Rosenfeld, California drivers were overcharged $2.8 billion last year alone. That’s not as big a grab as the electricity thieves got, but it’s still quite a lot.
The politicians will likely form a committee to investigate this — just as they did a couple of years ago. It will be forgotten once prices begin to fall.
The oil refiners should not be allowed to extort money from consumers.