Bob Tippee

Suddenly, the US teems with experts on the oil and gas business.

The price of gasoline spurted after Hurricane Katrina for excellent reasons, and everybody in the country has an irrefutable opinion about how much lower it really should be.

Propelled by this gush of expertise, state attorneys general go witch-hunting for price "gougers." And lawmakers in Washington, DC, dredge up monstrous failures of the past, such as price controls and windfall profit taxes, for new consideration. Some of these people are old enough to know better.

No opinion will be offered here about what the gasoline price should be�other than that it should be what the market says it is that day. In view of the ferocious bite Katrina took out of US oil supply, it's a wonder the price didn't jump more than it did.

Notwithstanding the proliferation of experts, Americans still know pitiably little about a substance on which their lifestyle depends.

In fact, they seem determined not to learn anything about oil at all. Maybe they derive too much perverse pleasure from the dizzy outrage into which they work themselves when gasoline prices rise. Rational explanation of price behavior spoils the fun.

Many agitated Americans actually applaud the political opportunists now threatening to fix the gasoline market by outlawing fuel sales in supply emergencies and by manufacturing shortage with price controls.

Indeed, the new experts have discovered yet another lapse for which to hold the oil and gas industry accountable. In several encounters with the general media recently, this writer has confronted an interesting question: Why did the US oil and gas industry let itself become so concentrated on the Gulf Coast?

Someone with no more experience than 28 years of writing about these subjects can only submit to the thundering insight of this question and humbly propose that the answer might somehow relate to geology and to regionally variant political dispositions toward the oil and gas industry and its operations. Just a suggestion, of course. Food for thought.

The new experts don't like that answer. They don't seem to want to hear it.

(Online Sept. 9, 2005; author's e-mail:

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