Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blame The ARABS!

Perhaps because I don't often pick up a printed newspaper these days, I noticed something strange as I flicked through a couple of papers my Mum bought. In fact, it jumped right out at me as I flicked from one page to the next, without going much deeper than the headlines.

There is a lot of community anger about the high price of oil. And the media is now putting the blame for that on the wealthy elites in the Middle East, including the Saudis in particular.

I think this is going to be a big new meme going forward to November 2nd. Blame the ARABS!!!

UPDATE: On the same day, I got a chain email from a bloke I hardly know, showing a dozen gob-smacking pics of an Arab Emerites sheik's luxury home, and saying "next time you fill your car with petrol, blame these guys for the cost"! Of course, that ignores the fact that the West has been backing "these guys" with huge military deals over the last 50 years, and replacing anyone (the Shah, Saddam, etc) who doesn't play the game. It also ignores the culpable role of the obscenely wealthy in our own societies.

Is this just a new Aussie media meme (as Bukko suggests in comments)? The GOP-Dem blame game in the US media drowns out everything else. I found this lead editorial in The UK Independent:
The Saudis will make their own counter-demands when oil producers and consumers meet at an emergency energy summit next weekend. One such requirement might be for Western governments to play their part in adapting to the higher prices by relaxing their domestic taxes on fuel. This represents a considerable shift from Saudi Arabia. Up until now, the country's rulers have blamed the soaring oil price on speculation in Western financial markets – a phenomenon driven, they say, by a false perception of a shortage of global capacity. There is little doubt that speculation is playing some part in pushing up the price of oil to an unprecedented $140 a barrel. Yet the fact that inventories have been at normal levels suggests this is not the driving force behind price rises.

Growing demand is the far more likely culprit. It is often asserted that Saudis still have vast oil reserves. But there is no independently verified proof of this. We have no choice but to rely on what they choose to tell us. If the kingdom really thinks the present price is the result of a speculative bubble driven by misinformation about its reserves, it ought to open up its oilfields to independent inspection to dispel the doubts. Of course it will not do this.
Hmmn. "Demand" is not "growing" at the same pace as the oil price. And China last week raised the cost of oil 20% overnight by cutting the government subsidy. That's the kind of drastic move that triggers riots in other countries. But it's sure to cut "demand". Will the oil price drop 20%? I don't think so.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman just said in Jeddah that "speculators" are not forcing up global oil prices. But is he choosing his words carefully here?
"There is no evidence that we can find that speculators are driving prices," Mr Bodman told a press briefing ahead of an oil summit, which will be attended by Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, in the Saudi city.

There are a lot of players in this game. I'm wondering who started up that chain mail? An oil company exec? A racist Zionist? Or a Kevin Rudd backbencher?