Due to the Scoop At Any Cost mentality and lax ethics of the news industry these days, major events are always misreported initially as networks attempt to one up each other to be the first to scream “AMERICA UNDER ATTACK! 50,000 DEAD AT WORLD TRADE CENTER” or “NEW ORLEANS WILL BE WIPED OFF THE FACE OF THE PLANET!” The “reporting” then enters its second stage: vastly under-reporting casualties or focusing on not-quite-the-point issues such as “MANY MAY HAVE GOTTEN OUT BEFORE BUILDINGS COLLAPSE” and “LOOOOOOTTTTTTIIINNNGGGGG!”
One such issue which is either cresting right now, or is the tip of a massive wave of We’re-Fucked, is the result of the massive oil refinery shutdowns in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, gas is now $3/gal in and around Milwaukee and since wholesale prices are still climbing consumers could see $3.25 to $3.50/gal at the pump soon.
A couple of weeks ago I spent some time on a post talking about the Oil Outrage captured on film around the country. With prices slowly creeping up over the course of the summer, consumers were starting to bristle as their belief in a god-given right to cheap fuel was starting to shaken. At the time, I said:
I should note that the oil shock he describes is not what we are experiencing right now. Oil today stands at around $65 per barrel, which around here roughly translates to $2.85 per gallon. Assuming a linear increase of gasoline prices compared with crude oil prices (which is a best case scenario,) imagine what it would be like if oil went to $100 per barrel or $300 per barrel in one day due to a terrorist attack on a refining facility or a hurricane wreaking havoc on the platforms of an offshore oil field.
Imagine what would happen, realistically, if gas were $5 per gallon or $10 per gallon TOMORROW. How would your life change?
At the time, people were pissed off and wanted answers. Now, however, as prices jump to over $3/gal people are just outright calling the police on gas station owners.
One irate driver still waiting to fill up at the Clark station called authorities, and several Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputies and Milwaukee police officers arrived to keep the peace. Budzynski managed to pay $2.68 a gallon for the nine gallons he pumped into his Buick. His wife told him when he got home from his trip to the gas station that he had been gone two hours.
Motorists didn’t simply call the police, they also complained to state consumer protection officials. More than 30 people called the consumer protection hotline on Tuesday to gripe about snowballing prices. Some watched the price change by 30 cents a gallon while waiting, and fuming, in line.
State weights and measures inspectors were monitoring gas prices at stations across Wisconsin to ensure prices are not illegally changed more than once in a 24-hour period. Though there’s no gas gouging law in Wisconsin – gas stations can raise prices as much as they want – it’s also illegal to change prices for motorists waiting in line because consumers are entitled to the lowest advertised price.
According to some recent news reports I’ve read, the Administration is going to release oil from the Strategic Reserves to ease the price pressure. Apparently, a run on gas is already under way in Southeastern Wisconsin; I wonder how long until the reserves usage offsets the decline in refinery production?
Check out the JSOnline article for an interesting look at the developing Oil Outrage.