'OIL MIDGET' ADMITS TO PRICE-FIXING
By Scott Upchuk, with files from The Oil Industry Observer
X, owner of an independant refinery near Halifax, says gas will be $15
OTTAWA (NP), August 21. The owner of an independent oil refinery and gas station admitted during a weekend of meetings with the Competition Bureau that he conspired with major oil companies to fix prices at the gas pumps. He said a "well-developed" plan is in place to hike gas prices to $3 per litre by 15 September, and providing there isn't too much of an outcry, to $15 by Christmas. Canadians, he said, will certainly squawk and there'll be a lot of huffing and puffing, but they'll soon find something else to bitch about. "Canadians are easily distracted and will put up with anything — just look at what they put up with in their national government," he said.
The owner's name is being withheld by Bureau Commissioners in order to counter any possible assassination attempts. Dr. X, who has a post-doctorate in smooth-flowing, spreading-oil technology, owns a majority share in Honky Oil, an independent refiner and distributor. The refinery has only one outlet, which dispenses the product (regular only) at an undisclosed location 19.76 Km south of Halifax at the end of a winding, hard-to-find country road.
With soaring gas prices (71.9 cents for regular in Halifax), there are widespread demands for an investigation into the so-called gas-pricing conspiracy. "To set the record straight and in the public interest," Dr. X voluntarily met with the Competition Bureau over the weekend where he faced hostile questioning. Expecting evasive answers to their hard-hitting questions the Commissioners were dumbfounded by Dr. X's straightforward replies. His honest performance confounded experts who have been scoffing that no matter how many investigations by grandstanding politicians, they’ll likely never find evidence of a gas-price conspiracy.
“He's a chicken fucking traitor,” said the President of Esso, who spoke only on condition that his name not be used. Irving's Marketing vice-president said, “He's a lying, two-faced, gas-sniffing cocksucker. Pump prices are solely the result of free market competition!”. The President of Petro Canada, agreed, saying, "I refuse to engage in name calling but if that shithead ever stops for a fill-up at a Petrocan station, he'll discover on the way home his car can't run on water! In Texas we call men like him Big Hats with no balls or oil."
Dr. X responded with: “Look. Every dealer sells the same product. There are no detectable differences among the various brands. We all pay virtually the same for a barrel of oil, and our refining, distribution costs, and taxes are about the same in any given market. Since we can’t do anything to improve our product, the easiest way for us to increase profits is to increase market share. But if I, for example, try to increase market share by lowering my pump price, my competitors will quickly follow suit. A destabilizing gas-price war will result and everybody (except consumers) loses.”
The 'shortage' trick
Dr. X continued: "We oil companies have to operate in an orderly market, one without gas wars. It would be easy for us to 'compete' with each other by matching changing prices, but we prefer to ‘discuss’ prices and reach a quiet consensus on what we'll charge. With all agreeing that a certain level provides everyone with a ‘decent’ profit — one that doesn't outrage the public too much — that’s where the price stays, at least until there is a big change in the price of a barrel of oil, or a tax increase—or stories of a looming 'shortage' hit the media."
Dr. X said the majors are using the 'shortage' trick more and more because it's so effective. Before any major price increase there is an orchestrated campaign to blame the oil sheiks, 'international speculators', and 'periously low oil inventories.' He laughed saying the world is awash in the stuff, but the bosses cleverly finger phony shortages to justify taking consumers to the cleaners with a major price hike or 'heist' as it should be called.
“To some eyes it might seem obscene but in our eyes it's just orderly marketing. Of course, it's illegal, and we normally won't admit that the other guys even exist. We never are stupid enough—like cigarette companies—to put anything in writing. And I, personally, refuse to attend the quarterly price-fixing meetings at a certain Quebec resort (Auberge Grand-Mère in Shawinigan - ed). I don’t play golf, and I never consort with the shady mix of whores, politicians and oil company executives who infest these chummy get-togethers. But I have no trouble making discreet contact with my cigar-chomping confreres. Forgive me, but it takes no great ingenuity to fool you guys in the Competition Bureau. It's really dead easy. You're just like all Ottawa bureaucracies — totally incompetent. Just look at what went on at Human Resources and Development: throwing taxpayers' money around like confetti to every Liberal bagman who strolled by. Need I say more?”
On conclusion of his testimony, Dr. X got a standing ovation for being so forthright. For his honesty, "which saved the Bureau untold hours of unproductive meetings," the chair said that Dr. X likely will not face price-fixing charges nor will the suits in Big Oil. "Dr. X has given us a new insight into how it all works but, unfortunately, hearsay is not acceptable evidence," he said. On closing, the Bureau chairperson asked everyone to stand and sing O Canada in both official languages.
Dr. X returned under cloak of darkness Sunday evening to continue quietly with his oil dispensing business at the undisclosed location. Before he mounted his motorcycle I asked him if his prices would reach $15 per litre by Christmas. "Maybe not this year, necessarily, but they will some day. You can count on it." With that he gave me a cheery wave and kicked his Harley into life.
Scott Upchuk, Notional Pest