Who should be accountable for gasoline running at three dollars a gallon? Who caused bills at the pump to swell to fifty, sixty, even a hundred dollars? Who is to blame?
"Not us," say the American oil companies that turn crude into gas, even though this week they are announcing staggering earnings for the first quarter of the year ($16 billion expected for the top three companies alone).
Blame it on the foreign oil producers, they say. Foreign producers are charging more for crude oil, and the people who invest in oil are willing to pay it, because they are nervous about potential disruptions in the supply ladder.
Blame China and India, some international affairs experts say. The economies in those countries have heated up, sucking up oil from the world market.
Blame it on lack of innovation, environmentalists say. The United States could have, should have, long ago developed a better alternative fuel program, they argue.
Blame it on drivers, economists say. As long as they are willing to pay $3.00 a gallon, that is what gas will cost.
Driving by my local gas stations these days with a quarter tank left is like playing some sort of wacky lottery; just hoping I'll run dry during a price dip. Is the cost of gas breaking my bank account? No. But watching those numbers spin on the pump is surreal when I think back to just a few years ago. Same gas. Same place. WiIdly different tab in the end.
The problem for consumers is that it is virtually impossible to prove where the blame lies...or if anyone should be blamed at all. The system by which we get gasoline is so vast that there are plenty of opportunities along the way for extra pennies to be skimmed, extra dollars to be gouged.
So what are you thinking out there as you watch the big board at your gas station? Who do you blame? Anyone?