Sat, Jun

Gasping at the Gas Pump


GUEST COMMENTARY - Some readers may have seen the graphic showing oil company revenues since last year:

Exxon: 57%

Chevron: 84%

Shell: 49%

BP: 45%

Others have simply looked at the dollars spin as they fill up at the gas station. 

Ever wonder why prices have jumped 25% and more across the country so soon after Russia invaded Ukraine? 

Does the war mean the oil companies are paying more to refine and transport existing gasoline supplies? 

Did they not have stocks of oil on hand bought at bargain basement prices? Did they overbuy at the top of the spike just to mess with Biden and the proponents of the Green New Deal? 

Or are they just capitalizing on the situation, on the reports that Europe will no longer receive the flow of Russian oil that they need to heat their homes and drive their cars? 

The reality is that attempts to stop the export of Russian gas have not significantly increased the price of crude oil. It was simple speculation that sent mercantile exchange prices spiking. And then the Wall Street flacks drummed up people’s fears to generate quick day-trading profits. 

Longer-term speculators following in their footsteps may have already lost a bundle because oil values have dropped down to near pre-invasion prices. 

On the other hand, the price at the pump continues to soar.

Historically, retail gasoline prices rise quickly but fall slowly, with every link in the supply chain eking out every last cent. 

Consequently escalating the cost of every other good and service on which Americans depend, forcing a fraudulent inflation spiral. 

Consumers can choose to accept this practice, or speak out and say that they are not going to take it anymore. 

And then there are all the fossil fuel purveyors demanding governments waive arduously-won protections for our air and water and ecology to allow them to profiteer off this war and create further oil infrastructure and dependency that will last for another few generations. 

That is, if the world survives at all. 

Do we need to actually beg our elected officials to address these obscene practices? 

The silver lining will certainly be an uptick in electric car sales and, if Biden and governments across the United States and around the world can continue to stand up to Big Oil, an accelerated transition to clean energy. 

And perhaps an increased chance to reduce global warming and improve the quality of life for the coming generations. 

Here in California, the supply chain disruption due to more restrictions, rising prices and increasing difficulties in sourcing adequate and consistent supplies will, in the long run, most certainly impact the plastics industry whose profits are dependent on cheap oil. 

But, again, is this necessarily a negative outcome? 

Those industries will be forced to evolve. Possibly – preferably – by shifting their focus from the multitude of cheap, mostly unrecyclable products that befoul our middens and oceans, to sturdier and recyclable goods for which they can charge a price to reflect their own costs. 

And since costs should include all transportation, these goods will then be cheaper to make here in the United States than in China or Pakistan. 

Another reason to lean on our politicians – to stop the subsidies, paid for with American taxes, that encourage multinationals to ship raw materials across the ocean, manufacture merchandise with what amounts to slave labor, and then ship gimcrack goods back to our Walmarts and 99-Cents-Only stores. 

With the establishment of well-paying production jobs here, American consumers will once again be able to afford quality goods Made in America. 

And made with good, clean American green energy.

(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)