Monday, October 31, 2005

Big Oil: Big Sneak

Exxon has just announced profits of nearly 10 billion dollars in a quarter. That's roughly 40 billion dollars in a year if extended to the year. The other big oil companies have also ripped off the public in a similar manner, raising prices on the pretense of natural disaster, not enough refinery ability, rising crude prices, and many more excuses. It's clear that none of these excuses can be considered legitimate.

First, let's consider the problem of not enough refinery ability. You might recall that a few years ago, Exxon was allowed to buy Mobile. The first thing Exxon did with Mobile was to close down the Mobile refineries stating that they were "not profitable" and this wasn't even commented on by news, congress, watchdogs, or much of anyone. If I hadn't been watching, I wouldn't have ever known. Of course, now we can see it as a set up for future price increases and excuses for those increases. Not enough refinery production? Then why close them in advance? Clearly to gain the enormous profit already in the bank.

Crude oil prices? The crude oil prices are not out of line with the normal level of inflation and production costs. Oh, the crude prices are well into enormous profits, yes, that's true. However, since most of the oil of the world just happens to be elsewhere, we might have to pay the price. That doesn't make the actual pump price go up double in a year as we've seen. Just because crude oil costs twice as much to buy as last year, doesn't mean pump prices are doubled. It's not the same as lettuce. Oil is refined and the refining costs are actually a small portion of the final pricing (or were before this latest cost rip off).

Then there are the "highway taxes" in which we pay a dollar or so per gallon to fix our highways. At the cost of a few million per hundred feet of highway, someone is getting very, very rich. Yes, there's a lot to do to get a highway properly built. Talk to any good landscaper and they'll tell you it's essentially a landscaping job. Shape the ground, put in a good base, and the proper top material, dress it up, and open it to the public. Yet, every time I go past a road building job, there are twenty people standing around, two driving something or other, and one using a shovel. Hmmmmm. This needs rethinking.

Not enough oil? And, the Artic will only give us a year of supply even when totally sucked out? None of that is very believable. We have many sources of fossil fuel within the control of the United States of America. Natural gas in great abundance, oil shale, coal, oil sands, actual oil fields, off shore oil, north slope oil, gas, and even methane off shore in such abundance we don't have any idea how much is really there. There's a huge source of energy in the Yellowstone area and other hot underground areas of the west. There's wind, solar, tidal, wave, and so much more energy going to waste.

Nuclear power for all our electrical needs is safe and there needs be no problem with safely keeping the nuclear waste products for future use. Put the nuclear waste in glass and store it in old salt mines. That will give us a few million years to decide if there is some use to that energy we are setting aside in the salt.

Alternative energy patents have been gobbled up by big oil. Now they are just sitting on those patents with the excuse of "the price is still too low for economical use" and they can keep making huge profits from oil sales. It's not so much that there should be a cap on profits as that there should be more competition. We really have a Sun Oil-style lock on prices and production. Did any one see BP (British Petroleum) keeping prices down to attract customers and build loyalty? Or Shell (Dutch company) holding prices down and beating the others with higher sales? Were any of these companies responsible enough to stockpile supplies in case of a natural disaster that might keep refineries from production? Any of these companies care about anything but profit? No wonder they get nationalized. Maybe Mexico has it right.

This is a subject that can be written about for ever and ever, amen. More for later.

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