Today’s Standard Examiner editorial references a story in last Sunday’s NYTimes that pins part of the high cost of gasoline on oil industry greed. The Times story is actually far more balanced than the Standard Examiner infers. SE editors cherry picked and overemphasized certain points from the Times article to grind an axe, claiming that the oil industry, as usual, is up to no good.
Times reporter Jad Mouawad is not as myopic as are SE editors. He tries to capture the fact that we’re talking about complex economic and technological systems. He works to explore many factors and tries to concentrate on mechanical breakdowns at refineries, which is one of the most significant factors in the recent rise in gasoline prices.
“As a whole,” writes Mouawad, “refining disruptions have been considerably higher than in previous years….” But Mouawad makes it clear that these breakdowns and disruptions are caused my multiple factors. He also notes that due to the current tight supply of gasoline, these “unplanned perturbations” have a greater impact on market prices than in the past.
Why is gasoline supply tight? Well, it turns out that there are multiple causes for this as well. One of the major causes is increasing demand. We gripe about paying high gasoline prices at the same time that we are buying record quantities of gasoline. The industry is struggling to keep up with demand. While the industry cites the high cost of implementing new government regulations, others have decried the industry’s unwillingness to invest in new technologies.
Some of Mouawad’s sources say that refiners have been avoiding regular maintenance to stay in the game as long as possible. This ultimately results in more equipment failures and safety problems. But there are two sides to this story as well. One industry insider sighs, “Refiners want to keep running in today’s economic environment, but when they shut down they are accused of gouging the system. When they don’t, they are criticized for overrunning their facilities.”
The Times story is a well researched and balanced article that helps readers comprehend the complexities behind rising gasoline prices. Standard Examiner editors, on the other hand, use the Times story as a platform for demagoguery. They feign simplicity by ignoring the complexities highlighted by Mouawad.
Appropriately, the Times story appeared in the business news section, while the SE article appeared in the opinion section. But that is no excuse for employing ignorance as a weapon for throwing stones at an easy target.
Perhaps a more useful and informative step would be to study in what ways governmental laws and regulations prevent competition in the energy market, and therefore, prop up high energy costs while stifling innovation in cleaner alternatives. Nah, it’s easier to just throw blame.