On Studio B with Shepard Smith the topic was rising gas prices…
Smith: Pain at the Pump. It’s the worse it’s been since October, gas prices up almost 14 cents in just the past week. According to AAA the average price, nationwide, for a gallon of regular unleaded is just more than $2.51 a gallon. That’s the first jump above $2.50 since the final week of October and some analysts are now saying that there is nothing to bring them down with summer right around the corner.
Joining us from D.C. now is the acting director of Public Citizens Energy Program, Tyson Slocum is with us. Tyson I saw the big oil people up on Capitol Hill yesterday, you know, they’re explaining to us why it is things are getting more expensive. But oil lately has been down, why are gas prices going up?
Slocum: Well I think we’ve got uncompetitive markets here in the United States, Shepard. We’ve allowed way too many mergers in the U.S. oil industry. Remember Exxon and Mobil used to be huge global competitors, now they’re the same company. The same thing with Chevron/Texaco, Conoco/Phillips. That’s why all the oil companies keep posting record profits every quarter, at the same time that crude oil prices are going up. There’s a direct correlation, Shepard, between the record profits that these oil companies are earning and the prices that consumers are seeing at the pump and also what we’re seeing for home heating oil and for natural gas.
Oil is a global commodity. The U.S. may be a big consumer of oil, but we are not the only consumer of oil. India and China are gaining on us quickly. The mergers of a few U.S. oil companies doesn’t really affect worldwide competition in the oil market. There is a direct correlation between gas prices and profits. That’s simple economics.
Smith: How high are we talking about gas prices going given the circumstances with which we are now familiar?
Slocum: I think we’ll definitely see well over $3.00 a gallon this summer. There’s no question about that. And I think you’ll also see continuing record profits by the oil industry. And so until we start addressing some of these fundamentals, until we start doing something about using a little less oil by introducing better fuel economy standards. Until we do something about the uncompetitive markets, you know, re-examining some of these huge mergers and strengthening anti-trust laws and doing something about the record profits that the oil companies are enjoying consumers are going to continue to pay.
Better fuel economy standards won’t show anything for many years. There are too many cars already on the roads that are and will be getting worse gas mileage than any new “standard” you can come up with. Until those cars go to the great auto graveyard better fuel economy standards aren’t going to make much of a difference. I don’t have a problem with better fuel economy standards, mind you, but better standards instituted today will make no changes to gas prices today. On the merger issue, I think you are shutting the barn door after the horses have gotten out. Oh, that’s right, you said to re-examine the mergers. In that case I take you are suggesting that Congress ought to pass a law to make them split up into separate companies once again. Guess what will happen if you do? Gas prices will go up. Merged companies share resources. If you make them split up, they won’t be sharing those resources anymore, they’ll each have to have their own. Higher prices. Mandating better fuel economy will also increase the price the consumer has to pay for the vehicle in the first place, another way the consumer will still be paying. By taking away the “record profits the oil companies are enjoying you’ll be taking profits from their stockholders (consumers as well) and the taxpayers (more consumers). The higher profits result in higher taxes paid to the government.
Smith: Yeah, but who’s going to do something about record profits? I mean the oil execs are up there on Capitol Hill yesterday, and say what you want – or last week – they make a compelling case for themselves when you listen to them up there.
Slocum: Well I think that consumer advocates and investigators make a more compelling case. I mean, our research has conclusively found that all the recent mergers have directly reduced competition in U.S. oil markets and that’s allowed these oil companies to enjoy the biggest profits in their history at the expense of record high prices for consumers.
Smith: Tyson Slocum, thanks.
Mergers may have reduced U.S. competition, but not global competition. Higher profits do not necessarily follow reduced competition. Higher prices in the summer months are a result of the “boutique” blends mandated for some urban areas in the summer time. Not every urban area has the same mandated blend. Oil companies have to decide how much of each blend to make and store. They may have to retool between blends. This all costs money.
It’s just amazing. Nothing but the U.S. oil industry is responsible for prices at the pump. He talks about the oil companies “enjoying” their profits. Doesn’t everybody enjoy their profits? Are profits really a bad thing? He sounds as though he thinks that the oil companies should be giving us gas at cost. Well that won’t save us much, will it? The “record” profits the oil companies are “enjoying” are less than ten percent. And if the oil companies aren’t going to make a profit, then why should they remain in business?
[THE PRESIDENT:] Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Grid Iron, I am — (laughter.)
Q You’re going to be sorry. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)
Q I’d like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet — your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth — what was your real reason? You have said it wasn’t oil — quest for oil, it hasn’t been Israel, or anything else. What was it?
THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise — in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist — is that — I didn’t want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect —
Q Everything —
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
Q — everything I’ve heard —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it’s just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We — when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I’m never going to forget it. And I’m never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn’t allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that’s why I went into Iraq — hold on for a second —
Q They didn’t do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look — excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That’s where al Qaeda trained —
Q I’m talking about Iraq —
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That’s where — Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That’s where they trained. That’s where they plotted. That’s where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences —
Q — go to war —
THE PRESIDENT: — and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
[tags]Helen Thomas, Press Briefing, President Bush[/tags]
Ed Driscoll‘s father died early this morning. He would have celebrated his 85th birthday next Monday.
Ed, our prayers are with you and your family.
I was the first voter in my precinct this morning, my husband was the second. The third person in line was asked if she was a Republican or a Democrat. She said neither. They told her that she would only be able to vote on the referendum issue. Then she admitted that she was a Democrat…
I wonder if she was aware of the difference between a [tag]primary[/tag] and a general [tag]election[/tag]…
Liath hasn’t graced these pages before because it can be hard to get near her with a camera.
Liath has to share the house with several humans, two other cats and two dogs. She would be happiest if the other two cats and the two dogs would just disappear one day. Then she’d have the humans all to herself.
[tags]cats, catblogging, pets[/tags]
When the Iraq war began there were varying predictions about the outcome. In terms of U.S. casualties, most predicted that there would be thousands of American deaths, perhaps tens of thousands, not hundreds like the previous war. It was a pretty fair assessment considering the task at hand: not just driving an army across open desert, but actually fighting into and then occupying Iraqi cities. Saddam warned that Bagdad would be a “bloodbath” for the U.S. and nobody was laughing off his suggestion at the time.
On the humanitarian front, a crisis of epic proportions was certainly contemplated by many reasonable observers: the war would lead to complete economic and social collapse, which in turn would lead to a mass of refugees, famine, the spread of disease and all of the related social consequences that war often entails.
On the environment, many forecasted an expansion of the scorched earth policy employed by Saddam in the first Gulf War. We imagined a sea of burning oil wells and projected an incalculable level of damage to the ecosystem in the region. Again, this was not an unreasonable prediction, but rather a pretty safe bet given our recent experience.
And of course, there was the near certain civil war and the break-up of the country. Iraq was a country of three distinct cultures, held together by the firm grip of a dictator. Once Saddam was deposed, the Kurds would break away, resulting in a broader regional conflict with Turkey, and to a lesser extent, Iran, given the decades-long struggle both of those countries have had with their own Kurdish populations. To the south, the Shiites and the Sunnis would battle for control of the rest of the country. It was to be a religious war with significant economic overtones – the control of Iraq’s vast oil wealth.
Finally, we had the “Arab Street”: the Pan-Arab uprising that was to destabilize the entire region. We were told that the populations of neighboring countries simply wouldn’t tolerate an American invading force.
In the end, none of the above occurred. There was no bloodbath in the streets of Baghdad. No humanitarian crises. No scorched earth. Remarkably, there has been no civil war. Despite many attempts by insurgents to incite one, the most recent being the mosque bombings, the various factions have shown remarkable restraint. In the North, Kurdistan is becoming a model for Mideast social and economic development. In the South, the Shiites and the Sunnis have chosen the political process as a means of advocating the interests of their respective populations. There have been difficulties with that process to be sure, but nothing close to civil war. As for the Arab street? Oh there was an Arab street alright, but it was filled with people clamoring for democratic change, in places like Lebanon, and to a lesser extent Egypt.
It’s difficult to imagine that, before the war, one would describe the current situation as a “worst-case” scenario. To the contrary, if one were to suggest, before the war, that not one of the above mentioned scenarios would occur, and that elections would be held within two years (with a voter turnout that rivals election in the West), that every city, every enemy stronghold, such as Fallujah, would be free from enemy military control and that only a relatively small number of fighters (in the hundreds or thousands, but not tens of thousands) engaging in small level attacks would remain as the only military concern, he or she would have been considered a believer in fantasies.
Yet, just the other day, I heard an “expert” describe the situation in Iraq as going from “bad to worse with each passing day.” It is almost universally characterized by the mainstream press as an unmitigated disaster. While the reality is that with each passing day, another prediction that civil war is just around the corner becomes unfulfilled, you will never hear the words “the war is going better than expected” written or uttered in any major news outlet. Instead, the goal posts have been shifted, the successes ignored, entire regions of Iraq forgotten. Grasping on to their pre-determined narrative, the media reports every bombing, every killing, every kidnapping in isolation and absent the broader context.
We don’t hear daily stories about the Iraqi electrical infrastructure anymore. The nightly blackouts became a symbol of a society in complete anomie. Today Iraq still has power grids, except they are being rebuilt and operating well above pre-war standards. When the subject of a story turns positive, it immediately loses its status as a story worthy of coverage. Remember Al Sadr? He was in the spotlight for weeks on end when he was leading a Shiite army against the U.S. Apparently the story of his capitulation and submission to the political process isn’t worth being told. When is the last time you heard the name Sadr city? While it was a ticking time bomb it was if it was at the center of the media universe. And who could forget the city of Fallujah, which occupied headlines for weeks while it was being controlled by foreign terrorists. Well, apparently the media did. After the U.S. forces routed the insurgents it disappeared from our consciousness. A new relatively peaceful city remains – a city with hundreds of stories of success. Stories that will never be told. Before the last bullet was fired the media had already moved onto its next example of Iraqi failure.
The reams of Iraq documents have finally been released, revealing some very interesting stuff, including documents supporting the link between Bin Laden and Saddam. And what does the media do? They basically tell us that they shouldn’t be believed.
Rather than simply reporting the facts and circumstances surrounding the source of the documents, and letting the reader decide how credible they are, ABC takes the remarkable step of adding a lengthy editorial note at the end of the story, discounting the veracity of the document.
Just to make sure the reader draws the “correct” conclusion about the legitimacy of the documents I guess.
Then again, at least ABC was kind enough to openly segregate the reporting with the editorializing this time.