There's been unconscionable behavior all right, most of it on Capitol Hill. A decent portion of the latest run-up in gas prices -- and the entire cause of recent spot shortages -- is the direct result of the energy bill Congress passed last summer. That self-serving legislation handed Congress's friends in the ethanol lobby a mandate that forces drivers to use 7.5 billion gallons annually of that oxygenate by 2012.
At the same time, Congress refused to provide liability protection to the makers of MTBE, a rival oxygenate getting hit with lawsuits. So MTBE makers are leaving the market in a rush, while overstretched ethanol producers (despite their promises) are in no way equipped to compensate for the loss of MTBE in the fuel supply. Ethanol is also difficult to ship and store outside of the Midwest, which is causing supply headaches and spot gas shortages along the East Coast and Texas.
These columns warned Republicans this would happen. As recently as last year, ethanol was selling for $1.45 a gallon. By December it had reached $2 and is now going for $2.77. So refiners are now having to buy both oil and ethanol at sky-high prices. In short, the only market manipulation has been by politicians.
For the record, the FTC has an entire crew that pores over weekly average gas prices in hundreds of cities, looking for evidence of gouging -- to no avail. Perhaps this is because no oil company controls enough of the market to exercise enough power to raise prices. The Hastert-Frist call for an investigation is nothing but short-attention-span political theater.
By the way, MTBE was the additive that lawmakers FORCED GAS COMPANIES TO USE! And then when it was found out that MTBE released some rather long-lasting toxins when it was burned with gas, lawmakers backpedaled as quickly as they could. Unfortunately for the companies that manufactured MTBE, they don't have the protection that congress has. So they're getting hit hard with lawsuits (of course) and gas companies are once again forced to deal with legislation that completely ignores the free market.
As long as the government keeps sticking their noses in business, we the public are going to get screwed. This is just the most recent in a looooooooooooooong list of examples.
By the way, if any one of the congresscritters can explain to me just how we're going to grow all the damn corn needed to make the US an ethanol based economy, I'm all ears. Because unless you want to clearcut half the states in the Union to grow that much corn, I don't see it happening.
So, along with preventing any new refineries to be built, the congresscritters have legislated us into $3.00 a gallon gasoline. Which 20% of is TAXES, by the way. Want to drop the price of gas by sixty cents? Cut the taxes out.
But you'll never hear Chucky the Worthless Asscannon suggest that. He'll just continue fucking up the economy and blaming other people for his miserable failures. Along with most of Congress.
Gah. It's really time we fired every single one of those idiots. Preferably out of a cannon into the Gulf of Mexico.