Waxing indignant in a recent Op-Ed epistle entitled the "New Red, White and Blue" Thomas Friedman castigates President Bush and Dick Cheney as energy "wimps" for not focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation. Fair enough, but Mr. Friedman need not go so far afield to become righteously exorcised. His own backyard at the New York Times would provide abundant material to permit him ample reason to hold forth on the issue of " wimpiness" when it comes to covering the oilpatch and most especially on the role of oils' most manipulative players, namely the OPEC cartel and its putative leader, Saudi Arabia.
The New York Times' coverage of the march of oil prices from $20's/barrel to over $60/barrel today has read like a textbook compiled from OPEC's and Saudi Aramco's public relations handouts. In articles appearing in the Times August and September of 2004 (one of which ironically entitled "Oil above $46 and Far Above OPEC's Ceiling") Jad Mouawad the Times' chief energy correspondent flatly stated that "OPEC alone is not responsible for high prices". He went on to blame the familiar litany of war, strikes, political upheavals and hurricanes in places as divergent as Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, Norway, Russia and the Gulf of Mexico. That OPEC so assiduously worked to create the myth of scarcity and the climate of fear that linked all of these supposedly unconnected events was not part of the story.
Then a year later, with the price of oil escalating to over $62/bbl in an article entitled "Such Good Friends, Again: Why America is More Dependent Than Ever On Saudi Arabia" -8/6/2005) Mouawad writes, and I quote, "Saudi Arabia has proved time and again that it is indispensable to the stability of oil markets."!
That "stability" was publicly and forcefully castigated barely a month later when on Sept 12, 2005 Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer publicly blamed OPEC for the doubling of crude oil prices over the previous 18 months. He advised that he had spoken to the Saudi Arabian finance minister and would be speaking to OPEC members in the days ahead. He called for OPEC to increase supplies and relieve pressure on prices. Rarely had someone of such stature spoken so openly about OPEC and Saudi manipulation. (Would only our government take inspiration). And to their shame this brave and importantly edifying declaration was not reported in the News or Business pages of The New York Times. Submissions to the Op-Ed page pointing to this oversight and its importance to the public's understanding of OPEC's manipulation of the oil market of which the public is victim and for which the public pays the price, were rejected out of hand.
Only last month in the Times the Saudis are complemented: "Saudi Arabia wants to be seen as a responsible actor on the global energy scene and a reliable supplier to its customers". This with the price of oil approaching $65 a barrel. Thank you Saudi Arabia. Thank you New York Times.