The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oil Slick

Award Congress another Brass Ball for doing its bit to make gasoline prices soar, then launching a witch hunt to nail someone else with the blame.

Because it takes a lot of brass for anyone in Congress to point fingers elsewhere, when Congress itself helped create, by its constant political and self-serving meddling, soaring gasoline prices and tightening gasoline inventories.

To appease the nation’s ill-informed greens and big-oil haters, Congress instituted a timetable that requires refiners to switch to ethanol from an additive called MTBE as the main component of clearer burning gasoline.

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association pleaded with Congress: Don’t do it because that will increase the “likelihood of higher prices and a possible volatile market through 2006.”

Why? Among other reasons, there wasn’t enough ethanol capacity to replace the MTBE. The result: reduced inventories and higher gasoline prices, just as summer driving demand arrived. Along with other global factors, such as Middle East uncertainty and the impact on the industry of Katrina.

Never mind that the oil industry doesn’t have enough refining capacity to start with, thanks in part to overly rigid environmental and other regulations imposed by…Congress. Or that the clean air trade-offs of substituting MTBE with ethanol are debatable anyway.

The warnings were ignored, of course, even though they came from someone who might have known what he was talking about.

So turning from its own role in creating this mess, Congressional mops, such as my very own senator, Dick “the Lip” Durbin and others (i.e., Democrats) rushed to a gas station to stage a call for congress to “protect Americans from gas price gouging,” as if we got rid of some evil folks, our problems would end. Unconscionably, President Bush also added to the clatter by promising to do the same. All of which become bigger news than MTBE, federal regulations and timetables, gasoline refining capacity, market supply and demand, and that other boring stuff.

So, while we’re awarding Brass Balls, give one to media morons who focus on so-called price gouging and “outrageous” Big Oil salaries because they find the rest of the complex story all too difficult to understand, or who understand it, but don’t think the public will, so they just ignore it.

Executive salaries and anti-consumer conspiracies are standard scapegoats for liberals, the media and others looking for simple explanations for complex, bad news. But if they want to blame big business and their other bogeymen, they might keep in mind that one reason Congress helped create this mess was because of the involvement of the ethanol lobby, whose leading members include top ethanol producer ADM (whose political contributions are legend) and corn farmers. Their feasting on taxpayer subsidies is gluttonous and growing.

So, why don’t the politicians and media mention them? Is it because Durbin, for example, represents one of the biggest corn-producing states, which also is the home of ADM? You bet it is.

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