Workers of the world!

Who doesn’t hate the oil companies? They’re easy to hate: Exxon Mobil has become the largest company in the Fortune 1000 (at least partially on the basis of rising gas prices), the retired CEO got an unthinkably large retirement package—beyond the dreams of avarice if there were such a thing. According to my chemist friends who still work there, the big oil companies are bailing out of R&D as fast as their little wingtip-clad feet will carry them. And so on.

Now politicians are piling on. The President has asked for an investigation of price-gouging by the oil companies:

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) — President Bush is trying to calm Americans’ outrage over soaring gas prices by ordering an investigation into whether the price of gasoline has been illegally manipulated, his spokesman said Monday. During the last few days, Bush asked his Energy and Justice departments to open inquiries into possible cheating in the gasoline markets, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Bush planned to announce the action Tuesday during a speech in Washington. Bush is under pressure to do something about gas prices that have reached nearly $3 a gallon. In a new CNN poll, 69 percent of respondents said gasoline price increases had caused them personal hardship. Other polls suggest that voters favor Democrats over Republicans on the issue, and President Bush gets low marks for handling gas prices.

I don’t think we should be too surprised if, after a lot of sound and fury, the pols decide that there’s not much the oil companies could do about things. One of the reasons I didn’t vote for Bush in 2000, BTW, is that it was my assessment that his reflexes as a former Texas oilman would cause his knees to jerk the wrong way in dealing with what was obviously going to be a major issue during his presidency.

A good place to start in looking for the real explanation behind rising oil prices would be this post from a week or so ago from oil economist James Hamilton. His post on the subject yesterday is a good one, too. As I read his advice it’s “Move on, nothing to see here (and quitcher belly-aching)”.

Meanwhile, I’ll quietly observe that if people lived a lot closer to where they worked this wouldn’t be much of an issue. For many of us that’s a lifestyle choice and, as with practically everything in this world, you pays your money and you takes your choice. So I say “Workers of the world, telecommute! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

Others posting this morning on the subject include Jay Tea who doesn’t trust the government to do much about oil prices and Tigerhawk who smells political pandering. Lynne Kiesling wonders if we should contango? Strike up the band!

UPDATE: James Joyner of Outside the Beltway considers ways, means, and the insanity of it all.

8 comments… add one

  • I do not anticipate any major changes coming out of this investigation, nor do I expect any major charges against the energy companies. What I do expect is that the Congress critters are simply going through the motions here’s so that the Democrats can’t say “the Republicans did nothing about gas prices”.

    Anyone who is educated on business in general, and energy policy in particular, is going to understand that on its face this “investigation” is going to come up with nothing, simply because there’s nothing there to come up with. Once that investigation goes through its paces and comes up with nothing, as it will, the American public and move on to the real problems.

  • Yep.

    Actually, I do think that there’s a problem and that the problem can be explained by the difference between the median income and the average income in the U. S. Not that there’s much that we’ll do about that.

  • linda

    I’d like to telecommute, but I’m a nurse, and it’s hard to give insulin via the internet. I have no choice but to physically get from here to there. I find the idea that I am “addicted to oil”, as our President says, insulting and patronizing!

  • J Thomas

    It’s good to live close to your work. But with no job security that might mean moving every few years. Expensive. And lots of jobs are located in places the regular workers can’t afford to live.

    Maybe employers will reduce theproblem. St up company towns or build employee dormitories that their people can live in whule they’re employed there.

  • I guess my point, J Thomas, is that an enormous proportion of driving is structural and based on choices i.e. preferences.

  • Michelle

    I know that there are many reasons for the gas hikes. This is affecting everyone and the oil companies expect us to sit back and take it. Gas maybe higher elsewhere. However the rate at which the gas prices have jumped per gallon last year and this year is absolutely outrageous. I believe that we can unite and stop this from happening further. I think that if we start with school districts, and pan out to every school district in every city. and every state. And, if every parent or rather if everyone partcipates, we can stop this. I belive that what we have to do is this: we can agree to take a day without pay, every person in every company, workers, non-workers, retired persons, basically every consumerb who is affected by this. We can pick a day, nationwide to stay home and not drive our cars, that this will severely affect the outrageous profits that the oil companies expect to continue receiving at our benefit.

  • It was once noted that events of the day are performed by Politicians that are more in favor of self interest than the interest of the people. Cicero
    How difficult is it to define price gauging? The true definition is defined by the fact that Exxon records record quarterly profits. That’s some cohonas!

  • Doug

    If you do a little research, you will se that oil company profits are down from earlier this year. In January, the american oil companies made 0.38 per gallon of gas, As of May 5, they are makine 0.24 per gallon. They are making yearly profits due to volume sales. The american people are passively protesting the prices buy using/buying more gas and driving more. I don’t really know that many people who moved farther away from work in the past 3 years, but i do know people who have gone out and gotten the latest H3 hummer, or Yukon. Truth is, we buy too much from foreign countries, and they are the ones who restrict the amount we are aloud to have. Those countries have a councel, called OPEC, and they decide how much they will give the US each quarter. They really don’t want to sell to us anyway, they would much rather open new opportunities in growing economical countries and see at lower prices than to sell to us. Our economy is sinking while others are growing, why would investors want to continue to put their efforts and money into a country who very liekly will not be able to pay the bills soon? The only way we are gonig to pull out of this as a country is for the people to invest in nonpatrolium energy developement. If we stopped investing in oil and started investing in what might be considered alternative now, oil will be the alternative fuel and as long as the development and sources comes from internal companies that put forth good effort and quality product, THAT will increase the economy.

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