We’ve heard about Enron “gaming” the energy market – creating false shortages to spike prices and reap a quick profit. How about “gaming” in the oil market?

In the build-up to the Iraq war, crude oil prices skyrocketed to nearly $40 per barrel in March from $27 in December – despite OPEC “facing a glut, not a shortage,” according to its President Abdullah al-Attiyah. Gasoline prices rose correspondingly to a near-record national average of $1.76 per gallon from $1.36 – yet another way working-class folks are being made to pay for Bush’s war for oil.

But recently crude oil prices fell to $28 per barrel, while gasoline prices slowly drifted downward to $1.61 per gallon.

Of course, industry analysts don’t like to call it “gaming”. “The prices always go down slower than they went up,” said David Hackett, president of energy consulting firm Stillwater Associates. “That’s just the way it works.”

But “it” doesn’t work for workers. The amount Americans spend on transportation has risen to 19.5% of expenses; the poorest fifth of Americans spend almost 40%, due to increasing distances between workplaces and affordable housing.

Meanwhile, contracts for rebuilding Iraq are mostly being awarded to US companies, including (without bidding) to a subsidiary of Halliburton – Dick Cheney’s old company. So much for everyone “sacrificing” for the war effort.

It’s time for the anti-war movement, unions, and community groups to campaign for gas price controls as well as for public ownership of the oil and energy oligopolies. Public ownership under democratic workers’ control would allow us to use the trillions of dollars these corporations control to provide free, convenient mass transit and environmentally-friendly fuels.

And it would be the only way to prevent the capitalists – already in control of the government and the current transportation market – from controlling and impeding the alternative fuels/vehicles markets and “gaming” them as well.

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