Priming the Pumps: Oil Companies Cash In On The Cape

By Greg O'Brien, Codfish Press

Timing is everything. Particularly when it comes to the cost these days of a gallon of gas. “Excuse me,” the man at the pump in Brewster said Saturday evening as I reached for my Visa card, close to its limit, to pump a tank full. “I hate to do this to you, but the price just went up,” he declared, swapping a price card that now charged $3.05 for a gallon of mid-grade unleaded.

“Didn’t realize Iran was that close to home,” I replied.

Batten down your wallets; the price of gasoline is rising like a storm surge in the Persian Gulf, quicker than you can say, “gouging.” And with the price of gasoline at a sticky $75-a-barrel, don’t stop buying lottery tickets.

Supply and demand, right? Well, not exactly. The United Arab Emirates energy minister concedes there is no oil shortage, indicating a dearth of OPEC patience to hold market prices to their current record levels. Get this: oil resources are sufficient to meet growing worldwide demand for at least the next 25 years, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which provides official energy statistics. The EIA estimated last year that world oil consumption was expected to grow from 29 billion barrels per year in 2002 to 44 billion barrels per year in 2005. “Under these growth assumptions, less than half of the world’s total oil resources would be exhausted by 2025,” the EIA concluded.

So what’s the problem? It’s a grade of crude called “greed!” And you can find it in abundant supply in the Middle East and in the cushy boardrooms of our major oil companies, whose profits are accelerating faster than a cruise missile. For example, Exxon’s net income, notes the New York Times, has levitated from $4.8 billion in 1992 to last year’s record $36.13 billion. And while you were choking at the pumps, Exxon chief Lee R. Raymond was skipping to the bank. Raymond, who retired four months ago, was compensated more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005, according to an analysis done for the Times. “That’s $114,573 for each day he spent leading Exxon’s ‘God pod,’ as the executive suite at the company’s headquarters in Irving, Texas, is known,” the Times reported recently.

It’s enough to make you puke a bucket of ethanol. Speaking of alternatives, our oil-friendly President George Bush was drilling dry holes on Earth Day, shilling for hydrogen fuel cells to power cars—a technology, backed by oil companies and auto makers, that is years from fruition. Democrats correctly have insisted on promoting a more immediate manufacture of synthetic fuel from coal and the use of alternative fueling sources.

Doesn’t require a rocket scientist to conclude we must take the greed out of oil production and find new, less costly, ways of powering our cars. Even Bush finally gets it. “We have a real problem when it comes to oil,” he said Saturday.

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