Boycotting water on Earth Day
Expanded from the 4-23-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

"Be humble, for you are made of earth. Be noble, for you are made of stars."
— Serbian Proverb

Chuck Schumer is so cute. And so right. And so late.

Sen. Schumer, D-New York, last week called for another Federal Trade Commission investigation into retail gasoline pricing.

So what else is new?

CNN reported that an "FTC spokesman did point out that two previous investigations into unfair business practices by the oil industry conducted in 2000 and 2001 turned up no evidence of wrongdoing."

Schumer actually brought up important points which have largely been ignored in this country's now decades-long inaction over inflated retail gasoline pricing.

He noted how the gasoline business is controlled by four companies and that competition is a myth. Schumer added that the oil companies don't need to break the law by conspiring to fix prices, they simply let one retailer take the lead and the rest follow.

Hmmm…where have I seen that before. Oh, yeah – right here.

For the last 11 freakin' years!


A little old fashioned big government trust-busting. Make the current clever price fixing method illegal. Tighten regulation and disclosure of "internal money laundering."

From Oilogopoly Archive, 1996

I've written the equivalent of a doctoral paper on it and built an entire website for it.

I have constantly carped that major media pay no attention to a story which is both important but unsexy. Believe me, I've tried to get it printed elsewhere.

Schumer's remedies are time tested. He sounded like a good Republican – Theodore Roosevelt – when he suggested that not only is government regulation needed, but also some old-fashioned TR-style trustbusting to turn BigOil into a couple dozen true competitors.

Schumer had his staff do a comparative pricing study of gas stations in Rochester, NY, and used the widely disparate results as a peg for his press release.

He's on the right track, but could have much more easily done his research at the Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive.

Sen. Schumer decried refineries running below capacity.

What else is new?

On the Nov. 11, 2005, installment of that dirty commie liberal show Now with David Brancaccio, PBS/NPR reporter Maria Hinojosa revealed company documents proving BigOil has closed refineries and even shipped gas to foreign countries in order to create shortages and drive up prices.

I wrote this in 1996: "With the forests of newsprint and eons of program time devoted to the current version of an energy crisis, might the great unwashed hope that the legit media might eventually find out why?

"Alas, no. The real story could bite them on the ass and they'd say the mosquitoes sure are big this year. The foundation for the current spike in retail gas prices has been cleverly laid over the past 14 years. The past six weeks are just a warning of things to come…While we were sleeping, BigOil came up with a new Monopoly game. They are trying it out on us right now, and none of the mainstream media have been able to so much as categorize the obvious."

A few years back, I even tried to coach a green Tribune reporter in how the game is played. She nonetheless totally missed the story. I'm running out of hair to pull out.

The American Petroleum Institute's reply to Schumer was delivered by a spokeswoman. (The greasers at BigFire, like their BigSmoke brothers in the tobacco-cancer lobby, have learned to put a motherly face on pillage and pestilence.)

She blamed high prices on increased worldwide demand. No reporter questioned her premise, notwithstanding that OPEC has rigged oil prices worldwide for about half a century and that the major refiners have done their part by manipulating retail prices here.

Schumer found wide divergence in Rochester because of the zone pricing game designed to force independent retailers out of business or into becoming major brand outlets. The strategy, pioneered by ARCO starting in 1982, has resulted in most west coast independents disappearing. Which answers Schumer's question about western prices immediately following eastern increases for no apparent reason. (The whole purpose of allowing Alaskan drilling was to insulate the western U.S. from OPEC shortages, remember?)


   "Given that relatively little of Iraq's oil has been pumped, most of it is still in the ground." (p. 76) [Proof positive that even a bestselling author can circumlocute.]

   "Think of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil reserve underneath." — Fadel Gheit, oil analyst (p. 78)

   "The American military 'is being used more and more for the protection of overseas oil fields and the supply routes that connect them to the United States and its allies....Slowly but surely, the U.S. military is being converted into a global oil protection service.'" — (pp. 85-86) from Michael Klare's Blood and Oil, page 7.


I responded to a rash of e-mails last week from desperate consumers wanting to boycott ExxonMobil for a year.

Won't work.

Oil is as tradable as cash. You might be buying Exxon gas at an ARCO station.

Gasoline is a necessity like water. Boycotting water kills you in three days.

Back in the 1990s, an aggrieved independent retailer told the Nevada Legislature that only one thing was certain: when gas hits $5.00 a gallon and is available from only five major brands, ARCO will be $4.98.

If you're interested in the past, present and future spawned by a century of petroleum imperialism, get a copy of American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by maverick Republican historian Kevin Phillips. (Viking Penguin, 2006)




A LITTLE GOOD NEWS ON EARTH DAY WEEKEND. You may celebrate the planet today by taking part in festivities at Idlewild Park. I also suggest dropping by the former South Hills Park in southwest Reno from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. for four events in one: the official renaming and dedication of the site as "Ellen's Park" in memory of Ellen Steiner; a memorial service for the late environmental activist and an Earth Day barbecue. Details and a map to the park will be linked to the web edition at

On Tuesday, the Washoe County Commission must fish or cut bait on funding the acquisition of the Ballardini Ranch, the last remaining large swath of open space in this little valley. County officials have apparently been negotiating with the out-of-state developers for the first time in years. A May 1 court date hangs over their heads and is apparently motivating both sides to talk.

If they succeed, backpackers, bears, birds and bunnies will be grateful.

Be well. Raise hell.

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Copyright © 1982, 1984, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of and webmaster of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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