Letters from the week of September 11, 2003

Did I enjoy paying $4 per gallon for gas? Nope. But I still got in my car and drove, despite the high cost. Does my objection to the high price give me the right to shove additional regulation down the throats of the oil industry executives? No. My rights begin and end with the right to decide if I want to buy gas at the price charged. You want to know how to make the oil industry execs squirm so much they change their business practices? Reduce your gasoline consumption by 50 percent.

If you disagree with me, then I have a proposal (reasonable within the boundaries of your op-ed piece): I propose that journalists be limited to an income no higher than a government committee deems reasonable (cost of living and demand for services should not be considered).

Further, any opinion editor who disagrees with my proposal should be vilified in the press as a thief.

In addition to commenting on your assumptions, I also would like to comment on your conclusion: Throughout the piece, you built a case for the just-in-time inventory being the root cause of the problem. Then, you conclude that if we outlaw the selling of multiple grades of gasoline, we would triple storage capacity, thereby alleviating the storage bottleneck that caused the shortage.

If the problem is the just-in-time inventory kept by stations and suppliers, then increasing the capacity to store gas by any factor (say, a million) will simply result in lots of unused storage capacity. If you make a new law that requires gas station owners to maintain minimum inventories, then you condemn them to buy gas at one price and sell it at another. In a decreasing-cost market, this disparity could put many stations out of business.

Finally, I'd like to put forth an opposing view: The real reason we have gas shortages and high prices is the regulation of the supply of gas. The real question is, "Why is there only one pipeline supplying gas to the Valley?" The answer is that the cost of building a second line is prohibitive. But it's not the construction cost that makes it infeasible, it is the cost of jumping through regulatory hoops added to the cost of defending against spurious lawsuits brought by the likes of the Sierra Club.

The solution to this problem is less regulation, not "more" as proposed in your piece, and reduction in retail demand for gas. Just watch the price of gas drop, when the Valley is supplied by competing pipelines, and nobody's buying anyway.

John Crockett

RAPT attention: Robert Nelson's "Dishonor Among Thieves" offers gas-tly insight to the oiligarchies' manipulation of gasoline distribution and pricing. There's little chance, however, that the petrol-price-protesting patrons will take any remedial actions. Hence, an acronym suited to the situation is suggested: RAPT.

That stands for Reluctant Acceptors of Price Increases. Rather than seeking redress, RAPTists will become complacent about the gougery and cower with the diffident disciples of doing nothing.

Lloyd Clark

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