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.