I received an email from AirTran:
Last summer, AirTran Airways participated in Stop Oil Speculation Now, a multi-industry coalition of businesses, associations and concerned citizens united in support of responsible energy policies and prices. Public outrage and congressional debate helped deflate the oil bubble and return prices to reasonable levels. You can help make a difference again this year.
While fuel costs have declined this year in comparison to last, there is still quite a bit of volatility in the prices that affect not only our business, but you personally-- in the prices you pay for fuel for your vehicles as well as goods that are transported to the stores.
Increasingly over the past few years, a growing group of financial players with no direct stake in the physical delivery of oil has exercised undue and unchecked influence on the price of oil, causing great pain for consumers and wreaking havoc on American businesses of all kinds - including airlines and their customers. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that continued speculation could "worsen the global economic downturn." We cannot allow this to happen.
We appreciate your business and want to keep fares low for you. Thanks for being a member of A+ Rewards, and we look forward to welcoming you on a future flight.
Vice President of Marketing and Sales
AirTran Airways, Inc.
But when gas was $4/gal last summer, Megan wrote:
[Speculators] provide the market with valuable information: a lot of people think that the price of oil is going to go up. The effect of that information is to raise the future price, which makes current consumers unhappy. But in fact, if the speculators are right, they're doing us a service by giving us a basically gradual price rise that helps us conserve. If they are on the money, and Congress chases them out of the market, we'll suffer more later, wishing all the while that we hadn't used the stuff so profligately. If they're wrong, later we'll have cheap gas and more fuel efficient cars, hardly a tragedy.
I'm inclined to go with Megan, but I think both sides of this argument could do with providing some details? Do you think speculation a problem? Who is doing the speculating? If "speculation" involves withholding oil from the market, where is this oil being stored? How much money have speculators made, considering that gas was selling for $4/gallon early last summer, $1.50/gallon late last summer, and $2.50/gallon right now?
On the other side: is there really a global market in oil? Does no oil producing country provide below-market-price gas to its domestic market? Are there really no "special relationships" between exporting and importing countries? I can understand how Katrina shut down gulf coast refineries, but why did the fall 2005 price still fall to around $2/gal? Why did it rise to $4/gal in the summer of 2008? What are the non-speculative production/delivery factors causing these massive changes?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions. But I'm tired of blanket assertions about "bad bad speculation!" on one hand and "good good free markets!" on the other.