90 Day Itch
Ten billion dollars in profit. Not for a year, for ninety days. And not just any ninety days, for those ninety days when our country was savaged by Katrina and Wilma. Ninety days when the wind whipped our gulf coast into an oil-coated sewage lagoon. Their gulf coast too. The profit was supposed to be higher, but production was down during those storms.
These were the ninety days when our Red Cross had to borrow money for the first time in their history. Ninety days when so many needed so much and the government just couldn’t get it to them. Ninety days when gasoline prices broke the three-dollar per gallon mark for the first time ever in the U.S.
How does a privately held utility company get to earn these kinds of profits? Where does ten billion dollars come from in only three months? First, there was almost a hundred billion in sales. About half of that was paid for the product, oil. The taxes came to about a quarter. Over three billion dollars were allocated for an account called “selling, general, and administrative expenses”. That’s where the officer’s salaries come from. That’s where the greasy dollars can come from to get dipped into g-strings or slid over bars in the name of corporate entertainment. Three billion can pay for the Leer jets, the chauffeurs and the limos. Contributions to political action committees can flow from this line, insurance that fat politicians will take the heat from the general public but not legislate anything harmful to Big Oil.
This isn’t fast food; this isn’t the hotel business. The United States has run on fossil fuel for nearly two centuries, since we stopped dipping tallow candles from beef fat and started burning kerosene lamps. Manipulating production, distribution, or fixing fuel prices to gouge excess profits is un-civic minded and borders on treason. But don’t wait for your government to do anything about it.
Every once in a while an e-mail goes around asking people to stop buying gas for one special day. That sounds like a good idea, except we would just buy twice as much gas the day before or after. What might help is if we actually bought less gas. Even a cupful per person would make a difference. That might require a walk or a bicycle ride to get a prescription filled or to get your hair cut. That might mean waiting to drive to the store until you need three or four items rather than driving down there two or three times in one day. It might even call for the minor sacrifice of car-pooling to work, church, or meetings. Even if you drive, you are saving the gas your friends and neighbors won’t burn. It isn’t about the money you keep in your pocket, it’s about the oil you leave in the barrel.
They say you can’t buy your way into heaven, but I have a hunch you can buy a seat on the train bound for hell. A ticket might cost about ten billion dollars.
David Blaine [8:36 AM]