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Russians in Georgia, Chavez in Moscow, Gas Panic In Atlanta Georgia. Whodunit??

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According to Reuters (Gasoline Shortage in Southeast Prompts Panic-9.24.08) quotes the AAA that the gasoline shortage in the Southeast has hit Atlanta Georgia especially hard.

That being said it may be worthy of note that Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, has made two trips to Moscow these past two months. Since the conflict in European Georgia the Russian leadership, spurred on by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, is heightening efforts to court anti-American allies throughout Latin America. They are intensifying their efforts to engage a willing partner in Chavez toward an anti-American entente. Discussions have advanced in the spheres of military cooperation (joint naval exercises and $4.4 billions of Russian armaments including fighter planes, air defense systems, transport helicopters) and a "civilian nuclear program" (purportedly for peaceful purposes!?) and the establishment of an oil and gas consortium with Gazprom as operator and headquarters in Caracas.

According to the Russian News Service, RAI Novosti, Medvedev and Chavez also discussed a plan to set up an international gas cartel. The collusion doesn't stop here. Venezuela's oil minister Rafael Ramirez has been quoted, "they (the Russians) are more than welcome in OPEC." Ominously, a large delegation of Russians attended the last OPEC meeting in Vienna on September 9-10 headed by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin.

Add to this a report in the authoritative newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta of September 29, "Gazprom Sets its Sights on the States," reporting that Moscow is trying to take control of energy resource deliveries not only to Europe, but also to the US, "thereby furthering the political interests of Moscow which will be able to use the increasing US energy dependence to exert pressure on Washington."

What does all this have to do with gas shortages in the Southeast? Gulf Coast refineries have been impacted by hurricanes Ike and Gustav and the resulting production shortfalls have caused pipelines servicing the area to run below normal capacity. Clearly it behooves all refiners in the area to return to full operations ASAP.

But wait, two of the major refineries in the area are CITGO Petroleum Corporation refineries, owned and operated by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., the Venezuelan state oil company. They have a significant refining capacity capable of processing 750,000 barrels of oil a day. Now, given the poisonous atmosphere, what better lesson could Hugo Chavez impart to us than by constraining our gasoline supply in our home market in a time of regional emergency? Thereby he would be reminding us how dependent we are on the unfettered supply of oil and gasoline. Has he, hasn't he? I don't know. With the current gasoline supply shortages in the Southeast he could certainly and readily exacerbate the situation. And the more vulnerable we feel, the more self-assured and bombastic he and his Russian friends become.

Given that Venezuela is a member of OPEC, given the clear collusion between Russia and Venezuela, given the manipulation of oil markets by the OPEC cartel, it is one of the scandals of this administration, in their craven capitulation to oil interests and Saudi influence, to have stonewalled NOPEC legislation, with threats of a veto, in spite of Congress' clear willingness to pass it into law. The NOPEC legislation would have vacated the sovereign immunity of OPEC members making it possible to sue OPEC member companies in American courts for collusion and restraint of trade. It is an issue that needs be high on the agenda of the next administration, and the candidates need to be asked to voice their position on this issue by a vigilant press.