THE BLOG

You Will Be Paying Higher Gasoline Prices. It Is Essential You Begin to Understand Why!

07/16/2013 01:49 pm ET | Updated Sep 15, 2013
  • Raymond J. Learsy Author, 'Ruminations on the Distortion of Oil Prices and Crony Capitalism'

In the face of escalating gas prices, the oil patch, their allies and Wall Street are counting on your ignorance permitting them to pick your pockets, spoon-feeding you nonsense while they cash in massively. The only defense we have is a vigilante public calling on our government to level the playing field between America's consumers and the 'oiligopoly' and in appropriate cases bringing the speculators/manipulators and their casino apparatus to criminal account.

This morning the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) touched $107, a level during the current run-up not reached since May of last year. This while inventories in the U.S. are near all-time record levels, U.S. production is accelerating, the world is awash in oil and natural gas in the U.S. is selling at $3.60 mmbtu, or an equivalent BTU content to that of oil costing $24 a barrel or less.

It just doesn't make sense, and it is not explained away by the usual industry placebos: "The driving season is upon us", "production difficulties in Libya, Nigeria or you name it," "Iran is becoming recalcitrant," "Egypt is falling apart," "the dollar is weakening," "Chinese consumption is impacting markets," and on (please see "The Price of Oil: Speculation, Manipulation Or a Deeply Broken System"). Lots of hot air without real substance nor actual impact on the price of oil at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for WTI crude. Misinformation propagated often enough both by the industry and a somnolent press to make an otherwise bilked public (paying extortionate levels for gas and petroleum products) blindly accept the oil industry's palaver. This combined with massive industry lobbying resulting in a total lack of effectual oversight of oil industry pricing, Commodity Exchange excess and the gross distortions resulting from the consequent financialization of energy markets.

My saying so doesn't necessarily make it so. But consider the following- only yesterday Mr. Joe Petrowski, the CEO of Gulf Oil, posited on CNBC that the price of oil should be half of yesterday's $105/bbl exchange-quoted price or closer to $50 a barrel. He cited that record amounts of oil are being produced in the United States and Canada, and that OPEC supplies are higher.

Add to this the comments of Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. In case you missed it, only last week, Exxon's 2012 earnings were cited as the second most profitable corporate earnings IN THE WORLD ever.

Yet some two years ago, before a Senate Committee, the same Rex Tillerson testified that the price of crude oil was $30 to $40 higher (at that time quoted at $100/bbl on the exchanges) than it should have been were it not for the "financialization" of energy futures and options on the Commodity Exchanges. With this coming from a man of Tillerson's stature and expertise on the issue, one would have expected that someone in government would have acted to protect the public's interest, but clearly the 'oiligopoly' and the commodity exchanges have a higher priority in Washington and the Beltway.

As an example of the excesses of the financialization of oil and energy derivatives trading and how they have lost all bearing to 'supply and demand' of physical product, let me cite but one example. On Feb 8, 2012 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group (CME), the world's leading derivatives marketplace, announced it set a new record for trading volumes of its energy products on February 7, 2012. Their trading volume for energy futures and options contracts totaled 3,489,302 contracts higher than the previous record of 3,098,129 contracts on 02.22.10 The CME group controls more than 90 percent of listed U.S Futures Trading including the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMERC) and according to the Wall Street Journal has outspent rivals on lobbying in Washington to ensure its views are heard ("CFTC Suit Marks New Era").

Consider trading 3,489,302 energy or crude oil equivalent contracts in one day represents 3.48 billion barrels of oil (each oil futures or option contract is for 1,000 barrels). With world consumption some 85 million barrels a day, this would mean that in one day's trading on the New York Merc, the equivalent of 41 days of the total WORLD'S consumption will have been traded. And then we are told, of course, that it's all about supply and demand.

Remember, your silence is letting the oil boys and the oil desks of the bank-holding companies and the myriad speculators take you to the cleaners. Its long past time to let your elected representative know you want them to finally WAKE UP!!