Your Lying Eyes

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10 November 2005

Oil Execs Give Senators Opportunity to Show Off

Senators got to yell at oil industry executives at a hearing yesterday for making so much money last quarter, gaining points with constituents. The executives got to give sober, reasoned responses allowing them to show how - well - business-like they are. And we get to continue to buy gasoline and have our tanks filled with heating oil.

There couldn't be too many Senators who didn't wait on long gas lines in 1973 and 1979, the last time we had supply shocks and price controls. It's hard to imagine an any more obvious lesson to learn from history than what would await us if we were to interfere with the ability of oil companies to make short term profits.

As with any other entity in a market economy, oil companies want to be able to make money - lots of money if possible - in return for the work they do. It's a no-brainer that if a profit limit is imposed on them, they will do less work - and that means less petroleum for us.

We don't have a lot of choice - there is no governmental entity in these here United States that could possibly deliver petroleum products effectively. Only greedy, profit-motivated private concerns can do that. The only mechanism that works is price - so if we mess with that, we're asking for trouble.

But the Senators know this, and so we have little to fear. There are some other ideas on the table. One is to rescind some recently enacted tax breaks. In and of itself there's nothing wrong with this, as long as it is decided analytically rather than in a fit. Another is to subsidize oil heat for poorer residents - again, nothing wrong with that necessarily. Just don't f-around with price controls!


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