(Author’s note: this piece was prepared Monday evening, about three hours before Kim’s posting on Bush ordering an investigation into gas prices.)
Once again, gas prices are rising, and people are howling. I’m feeling the pinch, too — I don’t have a great deal of discretionary income, the Shaggin’ Wagon isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle around, and my daily work commute is almost fifty miles round trip. In short, It’s getting painful here too.
A lot of people are getting angry about it, too, and once again I’m one of them. There really isn’t a sensible reason why prices are rising, apart from the fact that apparently the market will bear it.
Where I’m differing from the crowd, though, is where to put the blame.
Some are blaming the oil companies. I’m no fan of them, but I really don’t hold them responsible for this. They have good times and bad, just like any other business. Besides, I strongly suspect that I own a little bit of oil stock through my 401K plan, as do many others. (Yup, I just checked — one of the funds I’m in has 2.6% of its money in Chevron and ExxonMobil.) Besides, the spikes have involved the price of crude oil, and they buy that crude for refining.
The producers? Yeah, I guess I can blame them, too, but I happen to be a bit of a capitalist. I have an instinctive reaction to not want to meddle with the free market system unless absolutely necessary — and then only minimally. “The power to tax is the power to destroy,” after all.
As my incredibly feeble understanding of the matter goes, the folks making out like bandits here, who are driving the prices up and up, are the speculators. They are the ones who believe that oil will be worth more in the future, that prices will continue to rise dramatically, and they want to make their money off betting on that happening.
And as tempting as it is to smack them around a bit, I’m not going to. They are risking their own money, and if they are wrong, they will be the ones who get hurt the worst.
We’ve seen it before. I recall the dot-com boom of the 90’s, when I simply could not imagine how the hell all these internet startups were worth so damned much money. I figured there must have been something I didn’t grasp that explained just how the hell they were staying afloat without actually making a profit.
It turned out that I was smarter than the geniuses, as was proven in the dot-bomb implosion.
And that’s just what I hope happens to these speculators who have driven gasoline prices to the point where I’m feeling the pinch, and a lot of others are struggling, too. I so look forward for the day when gas and oil prices take a big hit, come back down to what I consider reasonable levels, and all those speculators making money hand over fist today take it in the shorts — and hard.
I just don’t trust the government to fix the problem without making it worse.