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American Opinion: On oil company price-gouging

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American Opinion: On oil company price-gouging
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

By The Associated Press

An excerpt from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States:

On oil company price-gouging in America:

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A few years ago, when SUVs still ruled American roads and gasoline prices were skyrocketing, consumers and politicians howled that oil companies were guilty of price-gouging because they refused to increase refinery capacity; the companies responded that it would be crazy to build more refineries to meet a spike in demand that was probably temporary.

Now the other shoe has dropped: Demand has fallen through the floor, and oil companies are shutting down refineries as a result. And once again, consumer groups are accusing them of price-gouging.

It's pretty hard to sympathize with Big Oil, but is there any winning this blame game?

High gas prices spark more public outrage than price hikes in any other commodity, even food. Although electric car technology is improving, consumers have few transportation alternatives, so it's tough to respond quickly to higher prices by changing behavior. Expensive gas hits low-income people particularly hard and is a key driver of inflation, which hurts everybody. So the anger directed at oil companies is understandable. It's just that the political responses are usually wrongheaded.

Today's problem isn't so much high prices, which have fallen since 2008. It's that actions by oil companies may be preventing them from dropping as much as they should.

The combination of the recession and improved fuel efficiency has greatly reduced demand, and major refiners are considering cutbacks, according to a report by Times staff writer Ronald D. White. ...

Every business makes cutbacks when demand for its products or services falls. We could avoid such market responses from oil companies by nationalizing them or subsidizing gasoline, but that hasn't worked well in the countries that have tried it. Rather than getting mad at the oil giants for exhibiting rational behavior, we should focus on being less reliant on them.

-- Los Angeles Times

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