WashPost Biz Page Runs Cartoon Pushing Gas Gouging Meme

May 13th, 2007 5:10 PM

A cartoon in the May 13 "Sunday Briefing" on page F2 of the Washington Post furthered a left-wing talking point against "Big Oil" that a comprehensive study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) debunked last year: that oil companies artificially manipulate gas prices by squeezing supply.

A cartoon from the Newark Star-Ledger's Drew Sheneman depicts a man fueling his car asking a cigar-smoking "Oil Co." representative, "Why do gas prices always go up right before the summer vacation season?" "Coincidence," replies the oil executive, as he stands atop the fuel line, bottlenecking the gas on its way to the motorist's car. The price atop the pump reads $3.50.

The implication, of course, is that the petroleum industry artificially bottlenecks supply to jack up fuel costs.

But that's not true, previous probes into allegations of price gouging have determined, including a May 22, 2006 FTC study of post-Hurricane Katrina gas prices.

Among the major conclusions, the FTC post-Katrina found:

  • “No evidence to suggest that refiners manipulated prices through any means” including diverting gasoline supplies to other countries or deliberately running refineries at an artificially low capacity
  • “No evidence to suggest that refinery expansion decisions over the past 20 years resulted from either unilateral or coordinated attempts to manipulate prices.”
  • “No evidence to suggest that petroleum pipeline companies” manipulated business plans to game gas prices
  • “No evidence to suggest that oil companies reduced inventory to increase or manipulate prices”
  • “No situations that might allow one firm - or a small collusive group - to manipulate gasoline futures prices by using storage assets to restrict gasoline movements into New York Harbor, the key delivery point for gasoline futures contracts.”

Of course, as I wrote at the time and as the Post business page evidences now, a liberal anti-business talking point is too convenient for the media to discard in light of evidence.