Getting to the Bottom of High Fuel Prices

Getting to the bottom of high fuel prices: that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." It's not easy. Last night, we had an extensive discussion about the pricing of gasoline and the huge profits American oil companies are making.

One thing struck me. After all the experts we've talked with, after all the research we've done, we still can't find out who exactly sets the price of a gallon of gasoline, which human being in America does that. Every time I ask who sets the price, I get "the market," "the mercantile [exchange]," "OPEC" and on and on.

Well, it's all B.S. Somebody tells your local gas station owner exactly what to charge. Somebody does that.

But the five major oil companies have managed to fog up the situation so much that confusion reigns. Nobody will tell you exactly who's deciding what Americans will pay for fuel.

What we do know, because the law demands it, is what kind of profits the oil companies are making each quarter. And those profits are astronomical during a tough time for America. We know for sure that while millions of Americans are hurting financially, the oil companies are rolling in dough.

Eight governors have now asked President Bush to investigate alleged price gouging. Those governors base their assertions on a study done by University of Wisconsin economist Don Nichols, who says for gasoline to cost $3 a gallon, the barrel price that OPEC charges would have to be $95. Since OPEC is presently charging $58 a barrel, Professor Nichols concludes the USA oil companies have some explaining to do.

Again, "Talking Points" is not conspiracy operation. When we see all the oil companies failing to answer simple questions, when we see their high-paid mouthpieces in D.C. hiding, when we see analysis that U.S. oil concerns and energy concerns are exploiting tragedies like Katrina and the war on terror, we get angry.

Finally, all of us can do something. All Americans should cut back energy consumption, as I've said, as much as possible. Not buy gas on Sundays. Let's send a message to these energy people who operate in the shadows.

The coming winter will punish millions of Americans who have to heat their homes using gas or oil. No question we're going to get hurt. The government owes us some oversight, but we owe it to ourselves to use less oil. Let's do it.

And that's "The Memo."

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

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