|OPINION AND COMMENT Bob Weaver|
Consumer, brace yourself.
Those gasoline, heating and insurance bills will be draining your pocketbook, even more.
If you feel you're between a rock and a hard place, you are.
Wages for most jobs are stagnant, even diminishing, benefits are being cut and fewer Americans are being given vacations.
The minimum wage at 5.15 an hour has not been adjusted for inflation since 1996.
For those unfortunate, undereducated souls who are singing the minimum wage blues - stop whining! Get yourself two minimum wage jobs (preferably in a location nearby to save gas money).
US corporations or the government (they are much the same) don't want to hear your whining.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the US rose to $2.16 according to AAA, but here in Calhoun County gas is selling for as high as $2.40.
With few controls on the market ("free" trade), gasoline distributors are telling dealers in WV the price will rise to at least $2.50 a gallon by summer, while others are predicting much higher prices, even to $3 a gallon.
Most of the speculation suggests the prices will not go back down to last years levels.
Besides complaining, few motorists have organized against the price increases.
Union membership is falling into the basement, with corporations blaming union pay scales in the way of corporate profits.
As gas prices in the U.S. shoot to record levels, the official explanation is that there is a supply and demand imbalance.
The absence of regulatory oversight of the oil industry is felt even more acutely in the refining sector.
Despite aging facilities and increasing demand, little new refining capacity has been built by the handful of companies that control this crucial sector of the economy.
Despite this crisis, there are no announced plans by any publicly traded company to build any new refineries in the USA.
According to a recent Bloomberg News report "Refining profits surged 93 percent to $28.6 billion for [Exxon and its six biggest competitors] last year, compared with a 25 percent increase in profit from oil and natural gas sales."
Those loony Californians back in 2003 proposed regulating the state's oil refining industry to limit profiteering by the oil monopolies, drawing a comparison with the artificial scarcity created by unregulated generating companies that caused the 2000-2001 electricity crisis.
Virtually everyone has forgot that ill-fated Enron (which cost workers, investors, small businessmen and bankers about $5 billion dollars) stacked the natural resource deck in California.
Enron just made a few mistakes, and the Lord forgives folks like "Kenny Boy" Lay, once a close friend of George No. 2.
Meanwhile, we need more "Kenny Boys" to drill the Arctic Wilderness to help the crisis, filling a small hole in the crude market.
Hey, in Sunny Cal, we could clear those hillsides again and get a horse, trade work with each other and not pay IRS and return to herbal medicine.