Profiteering from our Oil Dependence

If you travel a lot, like me, you’ve been hit as hard, if not harder by the massive increase in fuel prices. Nearly everything I do, from flying to shipping thousands of pounds of equipment from one end of the country to the other, to driving all over the Mid-South, has been negatively affected by this increase. Thanks to the following report from Countdown this evening, now I know why Oil has been rising through the roof, and it all goes back to Enron.

Watch the clip…

Essentially, we’re getting gamed the same way California did by Enron. The difference is that the effects of this deregulation condition are now spread not only throughout the US, but the world, all in the name of profit for a few people. Here’s an article from the 11/10/2001 edition of theNY Times about deregulation in energy markets and the administrations inability to keep up with the challenges it presents. My favorite quote:

Earlier this year, the federal energy commission asked for comments on whether it should tighten scrutiny of dealings between natural gas pipelines and energy-trading shops owned by the same company.

Enron wondered what all the bother was. ”Would stricter rules prevent real affiliate abuse that current rules do not,” it wrote in a regulatory filing, ”or would they instead merely restrict the activities of some of the more successful participants in the marketplace?”

Stricter rules? How would that help?/snicker

So now that we know who is screwing us and how they’re doing it, will anything happen? I doubt it. This is not a topic that the news media knows how to report to the regular folk. It doesn’t involve anyone’s wife, or some kind of personality dispute, or any kind of candidate back and forth. It’s not something pulled from the pages of a supermarket tabloid, or from the mouth of a felon, on the lamb that has rented space in DC.

Even the path to enacting this horrible mess is more than a little sketchy.

The original bill from the 106th Congress HR5660 failed, but was included in a conference report to HR 4577. This bill passed by a large margin with every Democratic member of Congress from the Tennessee delegation; Tanner, Clement, Gordon and Ford voting for it’s passage. In their defense, HR 4577 was an appropriations bill for the Dept. of Labor and HHS, and was supported by nearly all of the Democratic delegation (vote). Only 9 Democrats voted against the measure with 42 not voting. The bill was signed by President Clinton on Dec. 21, 2000.

The hard truth of the matter is that even though we know how we’re getting screwed, it doesn’t mean we can easily stop getting screwed, or that the reversal of this portion of the law will end up with the instant lowering of prices, as mentioned in the Countdown piece. Further, should Congress take this up, it would most certainly get vetoed by the President, who seems hell bent on drilling from here to Narnia and back for all the oil that may or may not be there, selling us a bag of beans for all our possessions and maybe even our soul in the process.

The solution, for this and most of the other problems that face America financial services is re-regulation of areas that we gave up to the Republicans in the 80’s and 90’s for the hope that we Democrats would not get eviscerated in the next election by looking more Republican. It is a hard left turn away from the litany of capitulations that set this condition up, a left turn that is long past due.

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