I tend to think of Tim Russert as being smarter than this–unless he was simply trying to toss a softball:
Watching Meet the Press roundtable on the gas price kerfuffle.
Russert, challenging Energy Secretary Sam Bodman: “Oil demand is up. Supply is down. So why are prices rising?”
On Friday’s Pajamas Podcast, Tammy Bruce did a terrific job of defending the profits made by oil companies, reminding listeners that millions of individual investors also benefit from them. Meanwhile,Thomas Bray notes they’re much a smaller margin than many who seek to demonize oil companies–and business in general–assume:
“From 1986 to 2003, using 2004 dollars, the real national annual average price for gasoline, including taxes, generally has been below $2 per gallon,” noted the Federal Trade Commission in a 2005 report absolving the industry of collusion. “By contrast, between 1919 and 1985, real national annual average retail gasoline prices were above $2 per gallon more often than not.”
In other words, gasoline prices were lower than at anytime since 1919 for much of recent history. Some conspiracy! Maybe somebody should have been investigating consumers for “gouging” the oil companies.
And just who is the profiteer here? While the average profit on the sale of a gallon of gasoline is nine cents, the average state and federal tax on that same gallon of gasoline is about 45 cents (and 52 cents in Michigan). And if we must have an investigation, how about investigating the extent to which government regulations drive up prices and block new production?
Management guru Peter Drucker once remarked, with his usual drollery, that profit is “whatever government lets a company keep.” But most folks have a vastly inflated view of corporate profits. One regular survey of Americans found that the majority believes the average corporate profit is between 30 percent and 40 percent of sales, while the real figure is closer to 4 percent.
Not the least of which is this fellow.
Update: A Wall Street Journal op-ed asks, “Don’t liberals like sky-high fuel prices?”. Well, a lot of them do:
The dirty little secret about oil politics is that today’s high gas price is precisely the policy result that Mr. Schumer and other liberals have long desired. High prices have been the prod that the left has favored to persuade Americans to abandon their SUVs and minivans, use mass transit, turn the thermostat down, produce less consumer goods and services, and stop emitting those satanic greenhouse gases. “Why isn’t the left dancing in the streets over $3 a gallon gas?” asks Sam Kazman, an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who’s followed the gasoline wars for years.
Scan the Web sites of the major environmental groups and you will find long tracts on the evils of fossil fuels and how wonderful it would be if only selfish Americans were more like the enlightened and eco-friendly Europeans. You will find plenty of articles with titles such as: “More Taxes Please: Why the Price of Gas Is too Low.” Just last weekend Tia Nelson, the daughter of the founder of Earth Day, declared that even at $3 a gallon she wants gas prices to go higher.
At least Ms. Nelson is honest about wanting European-level gas taxes. We doubt that many American voters would be as enthusiastic. If you think $3 a gallon is pinching your pocketbook, fill up in Paris or Amsterdam, where motorists have the high privilege of paying nearly $6 a gallon thanks to these nations’ “progressive” energy policies. (See nearby chart.)
However, you can be sure you won’t hear that from Democrats or Northeastern Republicans on Capitol Hill–at least not in public. Far from it. They’re suddenly all for cutting gasoline prices, just as long as that doesn’t require producing a single additional barrel of oil. We haven’t seen this much insincerity since the last Major League Baseball meeting on steroid abuse.
Or as Mark Steyn told Hugh Hewitt this past week:
I thought the Senate bill, that the Senate Republicans proposed on energy, is completely preposterous. If the Republicans cave in on energy, which is a national security issue, and which is something where the Democrats are even more witless than usual, because they’re not in favor of any kind of energy. If you were to say we should all go back to wood-fired steam trains on the Atchison, Topeka and the Sante Fe, they’d say oh, no, sorry. We’re opposed to logging. We can’t even have that.