THE BLOG

Tom Friedman Spells Out 'OPEC'

02/09/2006 01:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The New York Times coverage of the forced march of oil prices upwards from the $20's/bbl in 2001 to the $60's/bbl today has bordered on the irresponsible. Every rationale has been trotted out from strained production capacity, to increased consumption in China and India all the while applauding Saudi and OPEC efforts to keep the oil markets "stable" to the point of their Middle East energy specialist advising us that "Saudi Arabia has proved time and again that it is indispensable to the stability of oil markets" last summer while prices were whizzing past $60/bbl. Though some truth lurks in this cosmeticized reportage virtually never was the real cause of high prices laid at the feet of the elephant in the room, namely OPEC.

What a relief then to read Mr. Friedman's 2/8/06 response to Mr.Cheney's loaded observation "The marketplace does work out there" his column "No More Mr. Tough Guy" incorporating the following late dawning insight "The global market is anything but free. It's controlled by the world's largest cartel-OPEC- which sets output, and thereby prices, according to the needs of some of the worst regimes in the world. By doing nothing, we are letting their needs determine the price and their treasuries reap the profits".

It's fine to impugn Dick Cheney if that is one's inclination. That's part of his job profile. But where was the New York Times and the rest of the media for that matter while OPEC was/is making us dance to their tune over the last years? The softball reporting has been inexcusable to the point of becoming part of the fabric of deceit that lulled us into believing the oil patch and OPEC PR that we are being well served by egregiously high prices as an effective tool to allocate a "scarce" resource without ever questioning in a meaningful way the veracity of that contention. This while simultaneously steering us to accept the fiction that the enormous transfer of wealth to renegade regimes and oil patch bottom lines is the normal evolution of a "free market".

To repeat myself, (see my blog; The Energy Wimps at the New York Times) in September of 2005 Britain's Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer openly accused OPEC of manipulating a doubling of prices over the previous year.

Think about it. With OPEC's production of near 30 million barrels a day multiplied by an increase of $30/bbl in price -the price had escalated from $30/bbl to over $60/bbl that year- the daily increase in transfer of wealth to OPEC cartel producers was one billion dollars a day! and this without counting the massive increase in profits to oil companies and producers outside OPEC including Russia, Mexico, Canada, Norway, etc.

Brown's candid and brave condemnation by a government official of his stature (OPEC and the Saudi's do not take criticism kindly) was not reported by the NYTimes nor the Wall Street Journal nor
virtually any media in this country. Who is the media protecting, or do they just live on oil patch, "K" Street, and OPEC press handouts?!