It took more than a year after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans before the Energy Information Agency (EIA) finally concluded the affects the hurricane had on oil production and refining were negligible at best. This conclusion wasn’t much of a surprise given that traditionally, hurricanes have a consistent history of reducing demand more than they affect the supply of oil. In the aftermath of most hurricanes that come ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, gas stations can’t pump gas because they have no electricity and commuters can’t return to work until the roads are passable, and electricity has been restored.
Fast-forward to hurricane Ike hitting the Gulf Coast today and once again Albertan are expected to believe it is reasonable to immediately hike gasoline prices by an average price of .12, on the speculative premise of a possible gasoline shortage. However, when oil drops from a record $150 a barrel to just over $100 a barrel, we are expected to believe it takes time for gasoline prices to trickle back down, to reflect the lower price for oil.
How gullible are we as a public? In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Exxon Mobil’s fourth-quarter profit rose 27 per cent to more than $10 billion, a record for the company and one of the highest quarterly totals ever posted. As Exxon continued to reap a windfall from high oil prices ConocoPhillips posted a 51 per cent increase in earnings in the fourth quarter and Royal Dutch Shell, reported a 68 per cent jump in profits. Ironically after investigating consumer complaints politicians in both Canada and the United States couldn’t find any evidence of price gouging.
Oil and gas development has been very good to Albertans but that is no excuse to allow the very few who control the price of oil, to gouge the many. It is time we held big oil accountable for price collusion and price gouging. Price gouging is not just anti-competitive: it is illegal, and it is a cancer on our economy.
If only our currently elected officials had the courage to look into their campaign coffers, they just might find some of that elusive evidence of price collusion and gouging that eludes their official investigations. Then again, you the public, now have a perfect opportunity to make a change. If our current elected officials can’t find any evidence of price gouging, elect someone new. It’s time we held our elected officials accountable. It is a simple process: vote for someone else. Look beyond party labels and affiliations, and vote for an individual that has the integrity and courage to represent your interests in Ottawa. Think about this the next time you are filling up at the pump!