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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Will CBS 60 minutes Get a Pass on the Oil Boom?

This past Sunday 60 Minutes (CBS) did an "expose" about the forces behind the explosive increase in oil prices. Unfortunately, they limited their discussion to mere oil speculation and missed several other factors that drove prices up. A few of them include:

  • The rapid drop in the value of the dollar since 2001. There has been a 40 percent drop since that time. This alone would lead to an increase in fuel costs.
  • People seem to forget that the wars in the Middle East are in the heart of where oil is produced. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the possibility of disruption can lead to an increase prices.

  • Since 2001 there has been a rapid increase in all commodities, not just oil. Some of those commodities have seen a bigger increase than oil. Is there collusion going on in all these industries or are there simply larger business pressures playing a role? 60 Minutes didn't even consider this possibility.
  • 60 Minutes completely ignored the link between an expanding economy (which increased the demand for oil and therefore led to higher prices) and the recent recession (which has decreased demand and recently led to lower prices). This is something that would be covered in a high school economics class, but again ignored by 60 minutes.

  • There was no mention in the dramatic change in geo-politics since September 11th, 2001, including the rise of al-Quada, the growing hostilities in the Middle East, the disdain of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela towards the US, and the Nigeria crisis that has led to a disruption of supplies. These are among the factors that 60 Minutes did not even consider.

  • Then there is the rapid economic expansion of China and India that has only added to the demand on every commodity (as mentioned earlier), including oil. Again ignored by 60 minutes.

  • High prices in fuel led to a dramatic decrease in travel in the US by several billions of miles. This has led to a decrease in demand and a decrease in prices. This further proves that there was more than mere speculation involved in the rise of fuel prices.

These are just a few of the things 60 Minutes didn't address. One can easily go on, unless you have an apparent agenda like CBS. So far, virtually everyone in the media has given the network a pass, with the rare exception of Eric Bolling at Fox Business. Currently he is one of the only serious financial journalists to address the poor reporting by CBS. Maybe most journalists simply didn't watch the CBS program or maybe they don't believe they should hold their fellow news journalists accountable. All I know, is that the news industry needs to be held to a higher standard.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Peter said...

If you look @ SEC filings....Masters Capital is long MILLIONS of call options on various airliners since July!

12:38 PM  
Blogger Eric W said...

Kevin,
I think you bring up a lot of valid points but they are totally out of scope of what the 60 minutes segment was focusing on. The scope of the 60 minutes segment was on the run up and spike of oil last summer, 2008. I mean the chart looks like Mt. Fuji.

60 minutes did tackle the supple/demand issue that you say they did not. In fact, it was one of the most compelling take away’s from the whole article. The oil trader said that the EIA Energy Information Administration proclaimed that worldwide supply went up and worldwide demand went down at the same time that the price of oil was rising.

Last, I think that most of the points you bring up in your article have a focus on oil speculation of some sort. The price of everything has some slant on speculation. In the points that you raise we would have seen the oil speculation price pop up in 2001 and gradually go up or down based on the geo-politics around the world, which we have seen. But, your points do not address the fact that oil went from the 60’s to 147 to the 40’s right now in a year’s time. The 60 minutes article does give some insight into it.

8:14 PM  

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