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Oil Companies Limited Refining Capacity to Drive Up Gas Prices
U.S. Newswire/FTCR ^ | 09/07/2005

Posted on 09/08/2005 7:01:08 AM PDT by cogitator

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Sept. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today exposed internal oil company memos that show how the industry intentionally reduced domestic refining capacity to drive up profits. The exposure comes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as the oil industry blames environmental regulation for limiting number of U.S. refineries.

The three internal memos from Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco (available at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/fs/ show different ways the oil giants closed down refining capacity and drove independent refiners out of business. The confidential memos demonstrate a nationwide effort by American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying and research arm of the oil industry, to encourage the major refiners to close their refineries in the mid-1990s in order to raise the price at the pump.

"Large oil companies have for a decade artificially shorted the gasoline market to drive up prices," said FTCR president Jamie Court, who successfully fought to keep Shell Oil from needlessly closing its Bakersfield, California refinery this year. "Oil companies know they can make more money by making less gasoline. Katrina should be a wakeup call to America that the refiners profit widely when they keep the system running on empty."

"It's now obvious to most Americans that we have a refinery shortage," said petroleum consultant Tim Hamilton, who authored a recent report about oil company price gouging for FTCR. (Read the report at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/rp/ ) "To point to the environmental laws as the cause simply misses the fact that it was the major oil companies, not the environmental groups, that used the regulatory process to create artificial shortages and limit competition."

The memos from Mobil, Chevron and Texaco show the following.

-- An internal 1996 memorandum from Mobil demonstrates the oil company's successful strategies to keep smaller refiner Powerine from reopening its California refinery. The document makes it clear that much of the hardships created by California's regulations governing refineries came at the urging of the major oil companies and not the environmental organizations blamed by the industry. The other alternative plan discussed in the event Powerine did open the refinery was "....buying all their avails and marketing it ourselves" to insure the lower price fuel didn't get into the market. Read the Mobil memo at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/fs/5105.pdf

-- An internal Chevron memo states; "A senior energy analyst at the recent API convention warned that if the US petroleum industry doesn't reduce its refining capacity it will never see any substantial increase in refinery margins." It then discussed how major refiners were closing down their refineries. Read the Chevron memo at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/fs/5103.pdf

-- The Texaco memo disclosed how the industry believed in the mid-1990s that "the most critical factor facing the refining industry on the West Coast is the surplus of refining capacity, and the surplus gasoline production capacity. (The same situation exists for the entire U.S. refining industry.) Supply significantly exceeds demand year-round. This results in very poor refinery margins and very poor refinery financial results. Significant events need to occur to assist in reducing supplies and/or increasing the demand for gasoline. One example of a significant event would be the elimination of mandates for oxygenate addition to gasoline. Given a choice, oxygenate usage would go down, and gasoline supplies would go down accordingly. (Much effort is being exerted to see this happen in the Pacific Northwest.)" As a result of such pressure, Washington State eliminated the ethanol mandate - requiring greater quantities of refined supply to fill the gasoline volume occupied by ethanol. Read the Texaco memo at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/fs/5104.pdf

FTCR is nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer group. For more information visit, http://www.consumerwatchdog.org


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bogusmemos; conservation; damage; dhimmicrat; dutroll; economy; gas; gasprices; heating; hurricane; katrina; kayak; mtbe; natlpartisanradio; nprlistener; oil; profits
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I heard this on the radio on my drive in, and according to Google News these are just breaking in the news outlets. I expect that there will be an oil company response to this. If regulatory costs were making it un-economical to run older refineries, I can see why they might have done it. I hope they can explain why. The Mobil memo does not sound very good (Mobil did apparently pressure the government not to grant a small refiner exemption).
1 posted on 09/08/2005 7:01:11 AM PDT by cogitator
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To: cogitator

I read another article, and the memos have been made public before. But they're worth a re-read.


2 posted on 09/08/2005 7:02:45 AM PDT by cogitator
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To: cogitator

If this is true, I have the tar, feathers, rope and a tall tree.


3 posted on 09/08/2005 7:03:46 AM PDT by TXBSAFH (Free Traitors are communist China's modern day "Useful Idiots")
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To: cogitator

Wow! I am bookmarking this one. Thanks.


4 posted on 09/08/2005 7:03:54 AM PDT by semaj (qu)
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To: cogitator

The natural response of the Democrats will be to gleefully pounce on the Republicans and "Big Oil." The natural response of the Republicans should be to enact regulations to make it easier to build refineries or to re-open the ones which were closed. Maybe throw in a little trust-busting lawsuit to protect the "little guys."


5 posted on 09/08/2005 7:05:07 AM PDT by Enterprise (When Rats govern they screw up and people die. Then, the Rats want to punch the President.)
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To: cogitator
Get the envirowhacko regulations out of the way and refineries will be built.

BTW, notice how all these memos are during clinton administartion.

6 posted on 09/08/2005 7:06:11 AM PDT by Dane ( anyone who believes hillary would do something to stop illegal immigration is believing gibberish)
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To: cogitator
I believe it. And it will come back and bite big oil! It's collusion like this that feeds and sustains the enemies of the free market.

Mike

7 posted on 09/08/2005 7:06:11 AM PDT by MichaelP
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To: cogitator

Wonder how much money was "donated" to the Klintoon reelection/slush fund for all of this?


8 posted on 09/08/2005 7:06:27 AM PDT by highlymotivated (If American ever falls, a STINKING LIBERAL will be behind it.)
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To: Enterprise

I once worked in refinery construction and maintenance. It is not that easy to restart one that is been sitting idle for years.


9 posted on 09/08/2005 7:07:34 AM PDT by TXBSAFH (Free Traitors are communist China's modern day "Useful Idiots")
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To: cogitator

""Large oil companies have for a decade artificially shorted the gasoline market to drive up prices," said FTCR president Jamie Court, who successfully fought to keep Shell Oil from needlessly closing its Bakersfield, California refinery this year. "Oil companies know they can make more money by making less gasoline. Katrina should be a wakeup call to America that the refiners profit widely when they keep the system running on empty."

"It's now obvious to most Americans that we have a refinery shortage," said petroleum consultant Tim Hamilton, who authored a recent report about oil company price gouging for FTCR. (Read the report at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/rp/ ) "To point to the environmental laws as the cause simply misses the fact that it was the major oil companies, not the environmental groups, that used the regulatory process to create artificial shortages and limit competition.""

This has been in the news for 6 months, but the gubmint don't give a rats a$$ !!!!!!!!!!1


10 posted on 09/08/2005 7:07:53 AM PDT by aworldtrader
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To: Dane
BTW, notice how all these memos are during clinton administartion.

Seems like they're working more at the state level, not the national level. (I.e., California). Not the Chevron memo, though, which was only about statements made at a meeting.

11 posted on 09/08/2005 7:08:01 AM PDT by cogitator
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To: cogitator

Due to the nightmare of red tape and lawsuits it takes to build new refineries, the free market has not been able to work to allow competition to balance out the market.


12 posted on 09/08/2005 7:08:26 AM PDT by atomicpossum (Replies should be as pedantic as possible. I love that so much.)
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To: cogitator
An internal 1996 memorandum from Mobil...

LOL. So now the author of the piece expects us to suppose a competitive decision back in 1996...9 years ago...is relevant to today's prices.

Oil is a product like any other: bought and sold according to supply and demand. Get the freaking government out of the equation. Lower the insane taxes on the product. Let companies drill for oil where there is oil.

That'll bring the prices down real quick. Or maybe it won't--demand may continue to rise. Economics.

13 posted on 09/08/2005 7:08:34 AM PDT by SoFloFreeper
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To: TXBSAFH

Yeah, I imagine that the metal has rusted and corroded a lot in a refinery that has been idle for a long period of time. Still, some juicy tax breaks might help.


14 posted on 09/08/2005 7:10:28 AM PDT by Enterprise (When Rats govern they screw up and people die. Then, the Rats want to punch the President.)
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To: cogitator
Seems like they're working more at the state level, not the national level. (I.e., California).

Still all these memos are from the time of the clinton administration, an administartion that put many roadblocks up through the EPA etc.etc. and blocked new exploration and building of new refineries.

15 posted on 09/08/2005 7:10:51 AM PDT by Dane ( anyone who believes hillary would do something to stop illegal immigration is believing gibberish)
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To: cogitator

I figured as much. This ticks me off to no end!


16 posted on 09/08/2005 7:11:30 AM PDT by redlocks322
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To: SoFloFreeper

We had 314 refineries in 1981. Now we had 149 but the demand is higher. It seems to me that by closing refineries, they ARE raising prices for no good reason.


17 posted on 09/08/2005 7:11:35 AM PDT by highlymotivated (If American ever falls, a STINKING LIBERAL will be behind it.)
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To: SoFloFreeper
LOL. So now the author of the piece expects us to suppose a competitive decision back in 1996...9 years ago...is relevant to today's prices.

If they have continued the practice of limiting refining capacity to keep prices high, then this IS relevant to today's prices. The pinch due to Katrina has been blamed on the fact that no new refineries have been built since 1976 -- Rush even highlighted this. Maybe if refineries hadn't been shut down there wouldn't be a need to build new ones?

I suspect that there are reasons that older refineries were shut down separate from trying to keep prices high. I hope that's at least part of the explanation.

18 posted on 09/08/2005 7:11:36 AM PDT by cogitator
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To: TXBSAFH

My guess it is true. Oil companies are quasi monolopies and have great resources to tweak their production to keep prices high. It's why they haven't taken states to court to build new refineries in the name of the common good to have redundencies for gas supplies. They will spend billions for rigs and for the rights for drilling sites but won't fight to to build new refineries. Also lay blame to politicians who are on the hook of oil lobbyists.

This is where american ingenuity needs to come in and have someone make a more efficient engine. I really do think there is internal research that has produced extremely cheap efficient engines that will never see the light of day because it will upset the auto economy.


19 posted on 09/08/2005 7:12:04 AM PDT by MAD-AS-HELL (Bring in Emeril to kick it up a notch in NOLA!)
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To: cogitator

Also, newer technology enables MODERN refineries to use heavy crude, which is cheaper than the Light sweet crude. Of course, the Enviros, crooked pols, and the oil industry is keeping THAT from happening.


20 posted on 09/08/2005 7:14:01 AM PDT by highlymotivated (If American ever falls, a STINKING LIBERAL will be behind it.)
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To: cogitator
I suspect that there are reasons that older refineries were shut down separate from trying to keep prices high

Yep, the envirowhackos.

21 posted on 09/08/2005 7:14:13 AM PDT by Dane ( anyone who believes hillary would do something to stop illegal immigration is believing gibberish)
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To: cogitator
If the oil companies restricted refining to send gas prices UP - Then why didn't the bottleneck back up oil supplies from the field and send the price of crude oil DOWN?
22 posted on 09/08/2005 7:16:19 AM PDT by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (Give Them Liberty Or Give Them Death! - IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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To: cogitator

This is a difficult area. Free enterprise should allow businessmen to decide how much of a commodity they will produce. The businessman's decision will be based largely on his perception of supply and demand. If he can make more money by reducing his production, he will do so.

On the other hand, the recent price increases smack of collusion on the part of the major suppliers. Americans have not tolerated that practice in the past, especially concerning commodities or services which are widely viewed as necessary for the general welfare, and they certainly are not in the mood for it now.


23 posted on 09/08/2005 7:17:04 AM PDT by Rocky
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To: cogitator

Even if the refineries hadn't been shut down, we would still have to build new ones. Refineries have a limited lifespan and eventually need to be replaced. Even overhauling old ones isn't as effective as building a new one, and if you do overhaul the old one, you end up limiting the supply anyway.


24 posted on 09/08/2005 7:17:35 AM PDT by Spktyr (Overwhelmingly superior firepower and the willingness to use it is the only proven peace solution.)
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To: UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide

I don't know, but oil is used for other things than making gasoline???


25 posted on 09/08/2005 7:19:17 AM PDT by cogitator
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To: cogitator

I've no doubt that refining capacity is the critical factor when it comes to the price of gasoline.

However, a barrel of oil only contains 55 gallons, doesn't it?

This past springtime that was selling for about $55, or 1 dollar a gallon. It's now about $65.

Maybe they can make more than 55 gallons of gasoline from 55 gallons of oil, but that doesn't make sense to me. Therefore, counting the $65 cost of a barrel of oil and the costs of transport, refining, additives, advertising, marketing, etc., I'd have to admit that any gasoline price under $1.70 or so a gallon ouldn't even cover costs.


26 posted on 09/08/2005 7:19:28 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It!)
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To: cogitator

Consider the source, please: FTCR = overtly left-wing California-based conumer "watchdog" group opposed to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, health-care providers, and well, private enterprise in general.


27 posted on 09/08/2005 7:19:32 AM PDT by andy58-in-nh
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To: cogitator
Give me a break!

There is about 13 million barrels per day of spare refining capacity in the world today, which equals about 3/4 of total US refining capacity. We routinely import about 1.2 million barrels per day of gasoline and distillate fuel into the US from overseas refineries. That is roughly equal to the output from 6 world scale refineries.

Worldwide, and this definitely is a global industry, there is plenty of refining capacity. That capacity does need to be upgraded to handle heavier and more "sour" crude oils. We also need more ships meeting current environmental regulations, to make this worldwide capacity available to the US at reasonable transportation costs.

Objective, unbiased data on this subject may be obtained here: http://www.eia.doe.gov/ and here: http://www.iea.org/
28 posted on 09/08/2005 7:19:49 AM PDT by LOC1
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To: cogitator

Fascinating. However, when I go to the web site and read the oil company internal memos I find that they don't support the allegation that big oil tried to reduce refining capacity either for themselves or others.


29 posted on 09/08/2005 7:21:49 AM PDT by sailor4321
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To: cogitator

I just read the first three memos on their website, and I just don't see their point. The oil companies would like to see more profit from refinery operations. They are in a profit-making business, aren't they?


30 posted on 09/08/2005 7:24:54 AM PDT by savedbygrace ("No Monday morning quarterback has ever led a team to victory" GW Bush)
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To: cogitator

The mid 90's huh. Who was President then?


31 posted on 09/08/2005 7:26:03 AM PDT by Phantom Lord (Fall on to your knees for the Phantom Lord)
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To: cogitator
>The other alternative plan discussed in the event Powerine did open the refinery was "....buying all their avails and marketing it ourselves" to insure the lower price fuel didn't get into the market. Read the Mobil memo at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/fs/5105.pdf

Typical emviornmental wacko half-truth. The other company "powerline" had lower costs of production. The additional fees charged were not profits but reflected lower costs of Powerline because of relaxed so-called "anti-polution" standards allowed by the California Air Resources Board. (CARB)

This is a problem caused by the environmental wackos messing with commerce, not commerce itself.
32 posted on 09/08/2005 7:26:05 AM PDT by MindBender26 (Having my own CAR-15 in RVN meant never having to say I was sorry......)
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To: andy58-in-nh

What?! You mean this is just more left-wing boob-bait?


33 posted on 09/08/2005 7:26:18 AM PDT by sailor4321
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To: UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide
If the oil companies restricted refining to send gas prices UP - Then why didn't the bottleneck back up oil supplies from the field and send the price of crude oil DOWN?

Because our crude oil market only uses a small percentage of the world's supply, and only about 20% of that is used to make gasoline (another 10% shared by diesel and heating oil).

34 posted on 09/08/2005 7:31:21 AM PDT by antiRepublicrat
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To: highlymotivated
We had 314 refineries in 1981. Now we had 149 but the demand is higher. It seems to me that by closing refineries, they ARE raising prices for no good reason.

First of all, what law requires the oil companies to keep old refineries open? What law requires the oil companies to keep any refineries open? And what is "no good reason"? Who defines that? If I own an oil company, I'm in it for a profit.

35 posted on 09/08/2005 7:31:56 AM PDT by SoFloFreeper
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To: savedbygrace
I just read the first three memos on their website, and I just don't see their point. The oil companies would like to see more profit from refinery operations. They are in a profit-making business, aren't they?

Haven't you heard? Oil companies are supposed to lose money and give away their product for free.

36 posted on 09/08/2005 7:33:14 AM PDT by SoFloFreeper
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To: highlymotivated

Reason is that they lower overhead associated with additional plants and drive up prices due to low supply and produce a higher NET profit than if they had more refineries open.

Less work, more money!


37 posted on 09/08/2005 7:33:37 AM PDT by jasonk1
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To: cogitator
Well, anytime supply is higher than demand for product, prices will be lower, so it probably made sense in the 90's for oil companies to reduce supply to the level of demand.

Anytime suppliers make way too much of anything, it drives down the prices and makes them lose money. If Nike made more shoes than people could possible wear and it drove down the Nike shoe prices to $5 a pair, would that be a smart move for Nike? I doubt it. Why would any supplier want to supply too much product so that they lose money?

Now that demand has gone way up for oil in the last few years (with China, etc.), I am sure that the oil companies would like to have more capacity to meet the increased demand, but in the 90's, it may have made perfect sense to reduce supply.

People amaze me about not understanding a simple supply/demand curve.
38 posted on 09/08/2005 7:34:16 AM PDT by Hendrix
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To: cogitator
the oil giants closed down refining capacity and drove independent refiners out of business.

Not surprising at all.

The Godfather of Global Oil, John D. Rockefeller, was quoted as saying, "Competition is a sin".

His descendants and their associates are just following through on his wishes.

39 posted on 09/08/2005 7:35:22 AM PDT by Freebird Forever (AMERICA FIRST !!!)
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To: sailor4321
What?! You mean this is just more left-wing boob-bait?

Yes. But try not to let it shake your faith in the mainstream media. ;-)

40 posted on 09/08/2005 7:35:25 AM PDT by andy58-in-nh
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To: cogitator
I've just read the "Mobil" memo and as far as I can tell the person writing it was concerned about what he considered the economic advantage the new owners of Powerine would have because of less restrictive regulations that would apply to Powerine!

Now for a twist, who are those new owners and why are the atheists all shook up?

And what do some of the local enviros say?

Seems like a lot of people didn't want Powerine to reopen!

41 posted on 09/08/2005 7:35:41 AM PDT by F-117A
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To: xzins

Your point is well taken. A large part of the reason for gasoline being as high as $3.00 per gallon is the price of oil. Typically, a barrel of crude oil makes about half a barrel of gasoline (this varies quite a bit depending on the type of crude oil and the refinery). You are right that it is impossible to produce more than a barrel of gasoline from a barrel of crude oil. A barrel (in the oil business) is 42 gallons, not 55.

Refiners do, however, make other products besides gasoline, including aviation fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, and coke.

The cost of gasoline at the pump also depends on refinery processing and transportaion costs, as well as taxes.

One reason oil has gone up in the past couple of years is that China has been buying a lot of it for their own economy. This drives the price up internationally. It is supply and demand.

I am still waiting to hear a good explanation for the dramatic increase in gasoline prices in the last few weeks. It started before the hurricane hit.


42 posted on 09/08/2005 7:36:13 AM PDT by Rocky
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To: SoFloFreeper
"I just read the first three memos on their website, and I just don't see their point. The oil companies would like to see more profit from refinery operations. They are in a profit-making business, aren't they?"

You are not saying that the left wing nuts might actually lie or distort the facts to achieve their end result do you (i.e., corporations are evil according to Karl Marx)?
43 posted on 09/08/2005 7:37:01 AM PDT by Hendrix
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To: cogitator

Oil companies screwing the American people? That's Never happened as they are extemely patriotic...oh wait, no they're not.


44 posted on 09/08/2005 7:37:41 AM PDT by subterfuge (Obama, mo mama...er Osama-La bamba, uh, bama...banana rama...URP!---Ted Kennedy)
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To: highlymotivated

Do you know why that many refiners went out of business?


45 posted on 09/08/2005 7:38:45 AM PDT by cksharks (ew prayers for them because they will need it.)
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To: UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide

Could it be that production was slowed as well? Just a thought.


46 posted on 09/08/2005 7:39:15 AM PDT by subterfuge (Obama, mo mama...er Osama-La bamba, uh, bama...banana rama...URP!---Ted Kennedy)
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To: cogitator

They may be fined but the profit will far out-weigh the cost given the market control they now have.


47 posted on 09/08/2005 7:39:49 AM PDT by colonialhk (sooprize sooprize sooprize)
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To: UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide

Dont screww up their wet dream.


48 posted on 09/08/2005 7:41:32 AM PDT by cksharks (ew prayers for them because they will need it.)
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To: Freebird Forever

"The Godfather of Global Oil, John D. Rockefeller, was quoted as saying, "Competition is a sin"."

Every business would love to get rid of their competition; that is natural. However, that is not possible in today's world, especially in the oil business.


49 posted on 09/08/2005 7:41:32 AM PDT by Hendrix
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To: subterfuge
"Oil companies screwing the American people? That's Never happened as they are extemely patriotic...oh wait, no they're not."

Go back to the DU you left-wing nut.
50 posted on 09/08/2005 7:43:40 AM PDT by Hendrix
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