Are Republicans the reason why students cannot get affordable student loans? Is the federal government not in charge of the student loan program? Why is college tuition so high, textbooks and tiny dorm rooms so expensive? Why do college graduates have 25 percent unemployment under President Obama’s administration? What good is the ability to get a low interest college loan if you cannot find a job when you complete your degree?
Are oil speculators the reason why we pay high gas prices at the pump? Has President Obama not promised that under his watch energy prices will necessarily skyrocket, coal plants go bankrupt, and gasoline will rise to $10 a gallon, following the European model? Has Secretary of Energy Chu not stated, they must find ways to push gas prices even higher than the current price?
Supply and demand are crucial determinants of the price of oil. Other variables such as a crisis and turmoil in the Middle East can cause real oil shortages or increase the fear of shortages. That is why oil futures contracts were invented, bought and sold by speculators.
Speculators can estimate the demand for oil and plan accordingly. They can lose or gain money based on too much demand and little supply or too much supply and little demand. They buy futures contracts to smooth out unexpected price changes. They never take delivery of gasoline; they hold contracts worth 42,000 gallons each.
Keynesian economists agree that speculators sell protection from risk to other people and smooth out price fluctuations by purchasing oil when it is abundant and cheap, holding the contracts and reselling them when oil is scarce and expensive. Speculators, in this economic view, “play an important role in alleviating and even preventing shortages of oil.”
Independent oil producers and OPEC, the best-organized cartel in the world, can increase or decrease output. A cartel’s decision is always collusive and often counterproductive to the goals of our economy. U.S. makes cartels illegal within our borders, in the interest of the free market, but they are legal elsewhere.
Speculators make money by betting on price moves, some willing to take the risk and some willing to avoid it. The price of future contracts is influenced by political events, economic news released by the government, and natural disasters.
The government releases economic data, sells Treasury bills, or creates new policies that influence the price of futures contracts for both natural (oil) and financial commodities (derivatives).
Speculators themselves can have a temporary influence on commodity prices by a sudden demand for a contract either sparked by rumors, inside information, or other factors that drive the price up or down. (Kenneth M. Morris and Virginia B. Morris)
Speculators operate in a “zero sum market.” For every person who makes a dollar, another person loses a dollar. Speculators trade in order to make money, they are not interested in acquiring oil or holding it, they purchase contracts. Speculators gamble on price changes, they buy contracts when they think prices are low and sell when they think prices are high.
According to Kevin Freeman, oil-price manipulation by speculators on the futures market in 2007 when oil was $50 per barrel to $150 per barrel in 2008 occurred without a disruption in supply. Supply actually increased slightly. “Daily paper trades at the New York Mercantile Exchange were seven times higher than the actual oil used.” If you accounted for all other exchanges, Chicago, London, Dubai, other markets, trades of oil speculators may have been 50 to 100 times that of oil used. Producers and consumers had no change in production levels or consumption patterns.
Dr. Mark J. Perry, Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Michigan, said, “Market forces, not speculators, are the main determinants of oil prices and all other commodity prices. “A large number of scientific studies have failed to produce any credible evidence that high oil and gas prices were caused by the presence of financial investors in oil futures markets.”
“The Obama administration is mistaken in attributing high oil and gas prices to the presence of financial investors in oil futures markets.” (CNN editorial, Professor Lutz Kilian)
Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) argued that, because of speculators, “today’s oil prices of about $100 a barrel have become disconnected from the costs of extraction, which average $11 a barrel worldwide.” The fact that it is physically and economically impossible to extract oil for $11 a barrel is lost on Representative Kennedy. (John Hinderaker, Energy Policy)
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) criticized the EPA’s “philosophy of enforcement” to “crucify” and “make examples” of oil and gas companies like the “Romans crucified random citizens in areas they conquered to ensure obedience.” EPA engaged in smear campaigns against natural gas producers in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming, claiming that the use of hydraulic fracturing caused water contamination, without providing scientific proof. After threats of steep fines and overt intimidation, the EPA backtracked, but the public’s perception of danger and fear was already entrenched. (Craig Bannister)
Economic fear, intimidation, threats, empty promises, and glaring misinformation are some of the tools used to rally support for this administration’s failing policies and to pander to its voting base. Are progressive Americans so dim, chanting gleefully in a propaganda style reminiscent of communism, eager to vote for the demise of their own freedom and economic independence? Are the taxpaying residents of Realityville America hoping against all odds that they will out-vote the mesmerized and satisfied welfare recipients who want more communism?