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Voices of the Clarion: Time to save our sanity

Movement designed to give back something to oil companies

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

I tried to fill my truck up with gas yesterday, but the pumps shut down after $75.

Griping about gas prices here in Alaska, where we depend almost exclusively upon oil revenues to pay the bills, always seems a little disingenuous. It's like someone in Nebraska whining about the price of corn. But at some point, we've got to draw a line in the sand (or tundra, if you like).

Oil companies have been good to this community. I have friends who make their living on the North Slope. Like the rest of you, I've eaten my share of oil company fried chicken on the Fourth of July. I've driven on roads paid for with oil cash, played in oil-company-sponsored golf tournaments and even work for a newspaper that derives a significant portion of its revenues from oil advertising.

That being said, I've had it up to here with these people.

I understand the laws of supply and demand. What I don't understand, however, is the logic that dictates that oil company profits seem to continue to rise as the price of oil goes up. Were oil company profits to rise in proportion to the rise in gas prices, I'd bite my tongue. But when prices rise at the same time that these companies report record profits, that doesn't sit well with me.

How can it be that these companies can reap greater and greater profits as the price of their commodity goes up? If there's less oil out there, shouldn't they be selling less? If it's getting harder to extract oil from the ground, shouldn't the oil companies' production costs be rising? Am I crazy (that's a rhetorical question), or does it seem like these companies and cartels are simply saying, 'why don't we just see how much these idiots are willing to pay'?

I think that's exactly what's going on.

Whenever the question is raised about why gasoline prices continue to go through the roof, all we get are crooked answers and circular logic. Ask an oil company PR person why the price is going up, and they'll give you the kind of patronizing answers little kids get when they ask why they can't have another cookie. Usually it's something along the lines of, 'well, the price is going up, and we can't control that. We're really sorry that the price is going up, but it's just the way things are. We wish it wasn't this way, but you're going to have to live with it. Try running your car on Fig Newtons if you don't like it.'

The only way I see out of this mess is a consumer uprising. Since the oil companies are essentially telling us that they're going to keep raising the prices until we stop buying their black gold, maybe it's time for some rehab. Maybe it's time to stop buying this crap.

I'd like to see some sort of national boycott. I'm not saying we should stop driving, but a movement to reduce the amount of gasoline we buy by say, 10 percent might just make the oil dealers take notice. So in an attempt to take on the most powerful and ruthless companies the world has ever known, I'm using this space to start what I hope will become some kind of mass movement. Let's call it the 10 Percent for Sanity movement.

This week, and until the prices start coming back to rational levels, why don't we all simply cut out one or two trips to the supermarket? Instead, buy in bulk. If you live in town, walk to work once a week. If you're a high school student, take the bus a couple times a month. If you're a parent, offer to drive a couple extra kids to soccer practice.

The oil companies have given a lot to this state. But they've taking a lot from us, as well. And they're laughing at us all the way to the bank.

I like big oil. I like free chicken. But what I don't like is being made to look like a fool. Anyone who knows me knows I can do that easily enough on my own.

Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.



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