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Takes Two to Contango

As the man said: There is no shortage of oil.

By 3.9.11

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Takes two and then some to contango -- that is, to make the futures price higher than the current spot price of a commodity. But what the heck, what we care about is the tango thrust upon all who stop at the pump these days to fill 'er up. With gasoline in the high three fifties and headed for what some see as five dollars a gallon, even the Saudi Arabian Oil Minister had a word about that yesterday. "There is no shortage of oil," he declared. The high price, he went on to say, is due to speculators. In fact, hidden in the script of those on TV who decry the pump price is usually a line remarking that there is no shortage of oil. But this is no fun when enumerating the various station pump prices and the line is usually buried in the shrieking headlines.

What would it take for President Obama to declare also: There is no shortage of oil? The inflation is artificial, due to speculators. Not, probably, the guy hiding behind the cash register inside the station, but more probably farther up the line. The vendor is traditionally held blameless in these robberies. It's the guy on up there somewhere.

But what if Obama declared his intention of tapping the vast reserves undergound, stored there in case of national emergency? He has slyly hinted at this and then hurried on in his address of the condition. What is an emergency requiring a little tap of the emergency supply? Perhaps an invasion by aliens?

OPEC, the Saudis included, makes noises about increasing their output. But we seem more concerned with ridding the world of Gaddafi than of five dollar a gallon gasoline, though Libya's oil is destined for Europe, particularly Italy, and not the United States.

We in this country have been through this before and pledged not to let it happen again. But it is happening again, and we seem as helpless as before.

We shall continue to tango with the pump, and see the price of air transport increase along with the cost of driving.

I have ordered a T-shirt with the Saudi Minister's declaration on it. I expect the CIA may want to confiscate it.

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.