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Clinton's Oil Crisis

  • The Clinton administration's failed foreign and domestic policy has led to the crude oil fiasco this year.
By Charles P. Page

With retail gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil prices at an all-time high, the economy shows cracks.

The American economy, driven by the confidence and buying habits of the public, is now and will continue to reflect the will of an alarmed and wary consumer. Americans are patient to a fault, but when crude oil prices took another jump from $30 to $32 per barrel, they saw retail gasoline dealers immediately post prices of $1.599 or more for regular unleaded. As March began, John Q. Public rebelled.

The gasoline-consuming public, known as "4-wheelers" by those "18-wheelers" who surrounded the White House with their trucks, are also generally aware and very sympathetic to the "New England ers" who are being gouged to pay $2 or more per gallon for heating oil, just to survive the 1999-2000 winter heating season.

A normally patient retail consumer woke up and is now establishing guilt and will find ways to punish those who allowed this crude oil fiasco 2000 to occur. Blame can readily be pinned on a failed foreign and domestic policy in which the Clinton administration and Congress have looked at election-year politics, while ignoring the effect of rapid-rising crude oil prices for the past 12 months.

For example, in southwest Florida, surrounded by water, ports and hoping to keep oil rigs at bay in the Gulf, a gallon of unleaded regular was $ .899 in February 1999. Now, at $1.599, the price increase is $ .70 per gallon or an astronomical 78 percent in the past 12 months.

The Energy Information Adminis tration's February Report predicted even higher gasoline prices. It may be part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

An abundance of historical records exist, which show that crude oil prices, adjusted to constant dollars, have averaged close to $19 per barrel for almost a century. It is at $32 per barrel or $13 above the historical average or normal.

But that is not the real "killer increase" that is devastating the driving public in America. Here are the facts:

• In February 1999, crude oil was at only $9 per barrel (with gasoline running $ .899 per gallon). This month crude oil is at $32, a $23 per barrel increase of 256 percent (with gasoline running $1.599). The increase alone is shameful and greedy -- $4 per barrel above the historical $19. Someone is getting rich and John and Jane Q. Public get fleeced.

• In the past 30 years, the American economy has been fractured three times by crude oil prices above the normal $19 or less, on which it operates well. Gasoline lines of 1973, still fresh in some minds, resulted when the Saudis and others "starved" the United States by deliberately limiting exports. Then, prior to and during the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), the price of crude oil soared to $40 per barrel, yet gasoline prices were held at $1.30 or less per gallon. Ob viously, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other producers were being "protected" by U.S. armed forces. So it was in their self-interest to cooperate.

• This is the third time the OPEC clan has again made decisions that are counter to American economic stability. That will not be forgotten by the U.S. populace. If asked to defend Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or any OPEC member again, would anyone expect the hard-pressed American consumer to say "yes"? Expect a resounding "no."

• The Clinton administration and Congress waited too late. Last-minute feeble acts by the overburdened energy secretary to increase crude production, will take too long, perhaps a year.

• The solution to the "killer increase" in crude oil pricing is simply to roll it back quickly. Our American consumer, both "John and Jane," can demand that solution in several ways. Buy as little gasoline as possible, don't hoard or fill-up, hunt for the lowest retail price and bombard Washington at every level with your dissatisfaction. Take matters into your own hands. Save yourself and the American economy you created.