- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

As bad as the events of Tuesday morning were, now come sickening reports of profiteering by gasoline wholesalers and retailers. According to an Associated Press report, one gas station in Oklahoma City had increased the price of a gallon of unleaded regular to $5. "It's supply and demand," said the owner of this station, who raked in his filthy lucre all day long as frightened motorists determined to top off their vehicles snaked around the block. The same AP report listed price hikes of 40 cents per gallon in Springfield, Mo., and 20-cents per gallon in California, where gasoline already costs more than $2 per gallon. In Mississippi, gas prices doubled within hours to almost $3.60 per gallon while in Indiana, the AAA Hoosier Motor Club reported prices of $3 and $4 per gallon in parts of that state.

All of this is driven not by any sudden or anticipated shortage. Rather, it is being solely driven by speculation and revoltingly amoral greed. Major oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and British Petroleum have stated that there is no need to stockpile gasoline or raise prices dramatically. "We are asking all of our customers to maintain their normal buying habits," Exxon Mobil spokesman Tom Cirigliano told the Associated Press. "We have ample supplies," he added. "We're trying to avoid shortages." The American Petroleum Institute likewise tried to interject some calm, issuing a press release that there is no threat of a fuel shortage as a result of Tuesday's attacks against the United States.

Still, some people are looking to make a buck off the unprecedented acts of terror. It has taken action or the threat of action by authorities to keep this cashing-in under control. The Oklahoma profiteer, for one, was made to issue refunds to the customers he'd gouged. And in New York City, Mayor Rudy Giuliani sent out patrols to cite any gas stations suspected of bilking motorists.

In an earlier era of this nation's history, such actions would have been inconceivable and execrable. Today, alas, they are both expected and perhaps inevitable. It's important, therefore, that state and federal authorities step in as necessary to prevent an energy panic from exacerbating the nascent economic downturn. The last thing this nation needs is a manufactured energy crisis on top of everything else.

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