- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

For weeks the Clinton administration has been complaining that "big oil" is "gouging" the American driver. It turns out the administration knew better.

A memo slipped out recently, as reported by this newspaper's Patrice Hill, that the Clinton Energy Department was aware it was the administration's own regulations pertaining to so-called "reformulated" gasoline rather than oil-industry gouging that was primarily responsible for the increase in motor fuels prices. The reformulated gas (RFG) rules which stipulate that refiners mix different types of the stuff for different locales have made it impossible, or at least very difficult, to take advantage of the economies of scale in production and distribution that heretofore have helped keep U.S. energy prices stable and low.

Instead of refining a single grade of gasoline that can be shipped to areas where demand most warrants it, the oil companies have had to refine smaller batches of the differing formulations of RFG. And what if a batch destined for a given area or region is not adequate to meet the demand? Viola shortages and price hikes. It's no longer possible to simply pipe in as much fresh juice as the marketplace requires. And all thanks to the Clinton Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy.

The memo uncovered by Miss Hill, sent June 5, a full week before the administration began to blame the oil industry for rising fuel prices, states that the RFG rules were a "major reason" for the uptick belying the claims made by the administration that it couldn't see any reason other than blind greed for the change in per-gallon prices.

Naturally, the media generally ignored the embarrassing memo, dismissed its contents and continued to bray the administration's disingenuous line about the profiteering of "big oil." Typical were the unctuous comments of CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who stated, during his July 14 broadcast, that "Republicans today sided with the oil companies against the Clinton-Gore administration on the question of who and what is to blame for higher gasoline prices."

"Big oil" had about as much to do with escalating gasoline prices as Bill Clinton has had to do with current economic expansion, the seeds of which were planted years ago during the Reagan administration. But the Clinton administration knows better than most how to take credit when it's not due and spread blame far and wide, when it ought to accept it, instead.

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