Saturday, April 29, 2006

Iran, Oil, Angry Readers

A lot of mail came in to Shadowland@newsweek.com about "Pumping Irony," which linked the ongoing Iran crisis to the huge surge in oil prices. Most of the readers seem to think I missed the point. They blame the oil companies, U.S. government policies and the American consumerh:

“This is a crock,” writes James from Collinsville, Texas. “You can watch 10 different news shows and [get] 10 different reason why gas is high. It’s a new formula, it’s China, it’s Iran … It’s simple. There is a monopoly in the oil business. The oil companies set the cost. They can sell it for what they want. When Clinton was president I paid $1.80 a gallon. Bush talk is just talk. They might drive it down in time for the elections, but it will not last long.”

Fran from Caldwell, Idaho, presents a similar view. “If gas costs so much at the pump because the price of crude is up, why exactly did Exxon post the biggest profits EVER in the history of mankind?” she writes. “If the refiners and distributors justify their price raises by telling us that they are sorry, but they are only passing along their own cost increases—would you not think then that oil company profits would be level with last year?”

“I don’t understand how Iran could be the problem,” writes Ryan from Spring, Texas. “To blame Iran for our problems is foolish. We are in this jam because our leadership refuses to take a constructive lead in alternative energy and energy conservation. We need leadership not excuses.”

Stephen from New York comments: “Yes Iran is manipulating prices. And tomorrow it will be Iraq or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria … The only means to reduce OPEC's power is to reduce our dependence—which is very doable with a combination of tax incentives, penalties and higher mileage requirements. It would be great to see the leaders of opinion move the country that way.”

We can also blame Nigerian rebels, Hugo Chavez, Alaskan tundra-huggers, China, India ... and all are factors. But Iran is the problem of the moment, taking advantage of the extremely tight market created by all these other elements to achieve two basic goals: an increase in prices at a time when the country is actually having trouble sustaining past production levels and, oh yes, keeping the oil-dependent world at bay while it develops the technology for atomic energy and weapons. For more on all this, see the Iran archive below, especially the "Countdown" pieces from the beginning of the year. - C.D.
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