Feature

Gas prices

Katrina’s other casualty.

The 'œbiggest looters' in the wake of Hurricane Katrina weren't the desperate people 'œwading through chest-high water with clothes, food, and pharmaceuticals,' said Derrick Z. Jackson in The Boston Globe. Big Oil was a far more greedy—and shameless—thief, capitalizing on the catastrophe by quickly raising gas prices by 50 or more cents a gallon. As prices shot past $3 a gallon, 'œwith $4 a gallon well in sight,' companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell all announced donations of a few million dollars apiece to the relief effort. But this 'œthinly disguised attempt' to show concern rang hollow, since their donations were a tiny fraction of the industry's profits. ExxonMobil, for example, reaped a $25.3 billion profit last year, thanks in part to generous tax breaks from a president the oil industry paid to get elected. If President Bush meant what he said about a 'œzero tolerance' policy for looters and price gougers, 'œhe would call for a freeze or cap on gasoline prices.'

That would only make a bad situation worse, said the Arizona Republic in an editorial. It may be 'œinfuriating' to see gas prices jump 50 cents a gallon overnight, 'œbut it's not a conspiracy.' It's a simple matter of supply and demand. Crude oil prices have been 'œmarching consistently' upward for more than two years, as China, the U.S., and other nations tap world supplies to the limit. Katrina's fury destroyed most of the oil rigs, refineries, and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico region, which provide a quarter of U.S. oil production. With less gas available, prices soared—and they'll probably stay above $3 or even $4 into the spring.

Jerry Taylor

National Review Online

Newsday

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