The New York Times Shamelessly Shills For OPEC

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • Raymond J. Learsy Author, 'Ruminations on the Distortion of Oil Prices and Crony Capitalism'

Quite incredibly yesterday, on 9/11 the news/business
section of the New York Times, seemingly oblivious to the
malign relationship between the price of oil and its influence
on the political and societal events of our current history,
chose this day to extol the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC).

Let me quote from yesterday's article on the OPEC ministers
meeting commenting extensively on OPEC's concerns
and objectives. We are given the following insight:-

"Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
account for 40 percent of the world's oil exports and they have
been pumping at maximum capacity over the last year in an
effort to drive down prices".

Really, quite a remarkable perception. And this in the face of
OPEC's actions these past years that have led to the incessant
increase in crude oil prices by cutting production quotas again
and again, punching up prices to over $70/a barrel just a
few days ago.

The Times article goes on to wrap OPEC's manipulation of
production and price in the in the usual oil patch pabulum
referring not to OPEC's willful actions but rather marching
out the usual culprits: prospective Iran sanctions; conflict in Iraq
and Nigeria; lower production from 'restrictive' policies at home,
in Iran and Venezuela; growth of consumption in China;
production dislocations in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico;
political tensions in the Middle East; hurricane activity in the
Gulf. The OPEC public relations office could not have better
scripted the article. The litany of reasons other than OPEC's
actions for the tripling in prices over the last four years
was worthy of enshrinement in the "Who Me?" Hall of Fame.

And then the Times trotted out the ultimate rationalization
to make us all understand what a bargain
we are getting from OPEC, Big Oil and the oil patch generally.
You see, according to the Times "when adjusted for inflation,
prices have yet to reach records from the 1970's, which translates
to more than $90 a barrel in today's prices".

What the Times conveniently doesn't tell us or chooses not to
remind us, is that were the same parameters applied to gold,
which after all is a bellwether for inflation, the closing price today
for gold would be not have been $600/ounce but closer to $1700
an ounce! Gold after all was selling at over $800 an ounce at
the time base and inflation base of the Times' calculation for the
'inflation adjusted price' of oil. So much for the Times' wizened
insights and valiant attempt to celebrate OPEC and its oil
patch brethren.

The Times' reporting on this issue, is manifestly irresponsible.
It must be understood that the high price of oil presents a clear
and present danger to our national security for reasons often
enumerated on these posts and in many other commentaries.
Those who willfully become OPEC's and Big Oil's apologists,
rationalizing the manipulation to high oil prices do the nation a
grave disservice. What is sorely lacking, certainly at the
news and business desk at the Times, is the willingness to
clearly call the whole structure of oil market pricing into question.

The nation is facing two existential dangers, related, but not
the same. The price we are paying for oil is fuelling and enabling
the belligerence of those who hate us. It is the paymaster
of terror. We must do all we can to get the price of oil down,
down, down.

Simultaneously we must dramatically curtail our usage of fossil
fuels and begin to seriously heed the warnings on greenhouse
gases and global warming. It is an obligation to ourselves
and future generations. We are facing environmental disaster,
confronting our ability to continue life on this planet as we know
it. The need to restrain fossil fuel consumption becomes more
urgent with each passing day.

In my post "Breaking Oil's Price, Curtailing Gas Consumption,
Regaining our Self Respect" 8/14/06, certain ideas were put
forward. Viable or not, a public debate on these issues, that is
both on the price of oil, and the consumption of fossil fuels,
clearly delineating their separate imperatives, must be engaged,
starting yesterday!