The Guardian April 12, 2000


Oil prices, oil profits

by Roy Rydell

As the price of a litre of petrol or a litre of diesel fuel soars to new 
heights, the effects of the rise in prices have been devastating on working 
people, truckers and homeowners.

Truckers have protested in Washington and homeowners have cut down on 
heating oil because they just don't have the money.

A barrel of crude oil (42 gallons) is priced at US$32-$12 more than a year 
ago.

The media blames the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and 
Mexico for the rise in the price of crude oil because of reduced 
production.

No one is mentioning the fact that the price of gasoline and fuel oil began 
to soar after the merger of Exxon and Mobil right here in the USA.

This merger created a monster that will monopolise the oil industry even 
more.

Disgracefully, this merger wasn't even questioned in the halls of 
government, but was accepted almost as if it were a daily occurrence  
along with all the other mergers and buyouts that have taken place.

In all these buyouts and mergers thousands of workers have lost their jobs 
and the remaining workers are working longer hours with forced overtime.

Here's a little history of the Rockefeller family and their involvement in 
the founding of Standard Oil.

John D Rockefeller organised the Standard Oil Company of Ohio in 1870.

Enforcing strict economy, by mergers and agreements and by ruthlessly 
crushing his opponents, Rockefeller soon dominated the American oil 
refining industry.

In 1882 the different members of Rockefeller's empire were formed into the 
Standard Oil Trust. Supreme Court action required the trust to be dissolved 
in 1911. Standard Oil's directors were ordered to give up their control of 
subsidiaries of the trust.

Rockefeller was also a director of the US Steel Corporation, founded in 
1901. In 1914 coal miners at Ludlow, Colorado, went on strike.

The miners, members of the United Mine Workers, and their families were 
forced to live in tents after being evicted from their company-owned homes 
after going on strike.

On Easter night a miner, six women and 13 children were killed and dozens 
wounded when they were attacked by the National Guard.

John D Jr personally took charge of the strike-breaking and called it part 
of a principled fight against trade unionism.

The power that the oil corporations exert in Washington is awesome no 
matter what party is in power. Oil has always thrown its weight around.

One of the scandals that came to light in the 1920s illustrates the oil 
companies' contempt for the American public and how far the oil monopolies 
will go to turn a profit: The Teapot Dome area in Wyoming was set aside in 
1915 as an oil reserve for the US Navy.

In 1921, by order of President Warren Harding, control of the area was 
transferred to the Department of the Interior.

In 1922, the Secretary of the Interior leased, without competitive bidding, 
the Teapot Dome fields to Harry Sinclair, and oil fields at Elk Hills, 
California to Edward Doheny.

In 1923 the Senate investigated these transactions. As a result, the 
interior secretary was convicted of accepting bribes. In 1929 he was 
sentenced to a year in prison and fined $100,000. But the oil company 
executives were acquitted.

Sinclair went to jail for contempt of Congress and for hiring detectives to 
shadow jury members. The oil fields were restored to the government by a 
Supreme Court decision in 1927.

The oil monopolies that gave us the Exxon Valdez environmental disaster 
have been anti-union from the day they were formed.

A big factor in the disaster in the grounding of the Valdez and the 
resultant oil spill was the fact that the Valdez crew and the ship's 
captain, who ended up being the fall guy, were putting in long hours of 
overtime every day.

The forced overtime was because Exxon, with all its billions of dollars in 
profit, found it cheaper to work the crew overtime, rather than hire more 
seamen.

The leading shipowners in regard to transfer of US-flagged ships and flags 
of convenience have been the American oil companies.

The oil companies are forced, under the Jones Act, to operate their tankers 
under the US flag when they run coastwise, that is between two US ports.

But they register most of their fleet under Liberian and Panamanian flags, 
where they get favorable tax treatment.

Under Panamanian law, these ships aren't subject to income tax because the 
profits are at sea rather than in Panama. Shippers arrange their business 
so their profits are not taxable in any country.

American oil companies are deeply involved in swindling the vast oil 
reserves of the former Soviet Union from the people of Russia and the 
eastern republics.

If there ever was an industry that was up for nationalisation it's oil and 
energy.

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