Bull stuff vs. horse stuff: Oil company propaganda over prices provoke cries of ‘whoa’

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2006

A photograph that was printed in numerous papers across the land, including the Peninsula Clarion, showed an Amish man piloting his horse-drawn buggy past a modern-day gas station in Pennsylvania.

By positioning the steed just below a price sign spelling out the outrageously high price gasoline has risen to in recent weeks, the photographer seems to imply a return to the days of the horse and buggy as a means of transportation for all.

Though I’m not quite old enough to remember, I’m told there was a time in America when only the rich could afford cars, everyone else rode horses.

For most of us today, the exact opposite is true: only the rich can afford horses, everyone else drives a car.

One thing I do remember from my childhood days on the far South Side of Chicago is the street sweeper.

No, it was not a bulky mechanical device with large rotating brushes that stirred up dust.

The street sweeper of my youth was an old, stooped man with a long-bristled push broom, working behind a two-wheeled cart, sweeping up whatever made its way to the curb edges of the city streets.

The not-so-esteemed position, I would learn, was a holdover of those not-so-glorious days of the horse and buggy.

With Hollywood and Broadway’s portrayals of that bygone era, it’s easy to overlook a very big problem literally left behind by all those horses.

In New York City alone, after the horses did their thing and the street sweepers cleaned it up, anywhere from one to two barge loads of road apples were hauled out to sea and dumped — every day.

That’s a lot of horse stuff.

Now, just imagine a nice, hot, humid summer day in the city when all the flies zeroed in on those apple piles.

I’m not saying I enjoy paying $30 to fill the 11-gallon tank on my little pickup truck, but I’m sure I prefer having everyone driving cars and trucks rather than horse-drawn buggies with all they leave behind.

I just wish Big Oil would show a little mercy and stop feeding me the figurative manure they keep spreading to explain why gasoline has soared to $3 a gallon even one full month before the peak summer driving season, which I’m sure will see prices hitting $4 this year.

Last year, when Katrina slammed into oil production platforms in the Gulf and petroleum refineries along the Texas coast, the oil companies said prices spiked because production was shut down.

The feds intervened and the prices actually dropped a little.

Now, as crude oil prices have climbed past $70 a barrel, Big Oil says gasoline prices are climbing because of that and because of how much it costs to repair the platforms and refineries.


Big Oil owns the crude oil. Big Oil owns the production companies. Big Oil owns the refineries. And, Big Oil owns the gas stations.

Consequently when Big Oil pays itself $70 for a barrel of crude oil and raises the tankwagon price of gasoline at its refineries forcing its own gas stations to raise prices to the consumer, Big Oil is profiting at every step of the way.

That’s why Big Oil can report billions of dollars in profits for the quarter.

Mention those obscene profits to the oil companies, of course, and you will get their decades-old gibberish about investing all that money into the future exploration and development of the nation’s resources.

They will also be quick to point out that their stocks only return six or so percent to their investors. There’s nothing obscene about that.

What about the eight-figure retirement packages? What about the $11 million annual salaries of their CEOs?

Are these investments into the future development ... and blah, blah, blah?

Recently, just in case we thought Big Oil was selfish, BP — which, by the way, they say no longer stands for British Petroleum — filled Alaska postal boxes with slick, full-color flyers telling us how beneficent they are to Alaskans.

I guess that was supposed to prompt us to grab the phone and tell Juneau to be nice to them and forget about upping their taxes.

Considering the bull stuff that has replaced the horse stuff linked to transportation in this country, I would be much more prone to pick up the phone and say, “Stick it to ’em, Frank.”

They talk about the price of gasoline being no higher than the market will bear.

I say push up their taxes and let’s just see how much oil moguls’ coffers can bear.

If we do accidentally jack them up too high, maybe we will all have our cars parked in the garage.

Maybe we will have to return to depending on horses for getting from point A to point B.

And maybe, I’ll be the stooped old man with the broom and cart.

At least I’ll know where the stink is coming from.

Phil Hermanek is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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