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A Tulsa TV station's mix-up caused a major mishap in the crude oil market

If anyone needed proof that it doesn't take much to make gas prices jump, here it is: Reuters reports that world oil prices leaped again today because a Tulsa, Okla., TV station published an erroneous report on its Web site.

The report claimed that a lightning strike had touched off a fire at a Tulsa-area refinery. The managers of the refinery, apparently noting that they were not on fire, promptly extinguished the false report, and the TV station removed it from their site. Not quickly enough, however, to prevent oil traders around the globe from pressing the panic button and sending crude prices spiraling up another 40 cents a barrel.

I find this story disturbing on several levels:

  1. If international markets can move on the basis of a Tulsa TV station's Web site, we are in a heap of trouble. For one thing, Web sites are almost always an afterthought at TV stations. I've worked at several, so I base this on firsthand knowledge. TV stations are in the business of broadcasting TV shows. If they have anybody who can actually write news, they're working on the 11 o'clock broadcast, not the Web page. This is generally the province of an underpaid coed or an intern. Secondly, Tulsa ranks as the No. 62 broadcast market in the United States. From a media standpoint, that's pretty much the bottom rung -- at least among towns that boast a freeway and a few multistoried buildings. If this is where oil buyers get their news, no wonder I'm paying $3.29 a gallon for unleaded.
  2. I don't think the problem is limited to the energy industry. The analysts that cover tech stocks are just as vulnerable to a bad piece of news reporting. Financial analysts are expected to be at least quasi-clairvoyant, and since that's pretty much impossible, they work hard to find out things (and when that fails, to guess things) before anybody else. Scouring the Web sites of Podunk TV stations and other spurious news outlets is one way to pick up a market-moving tidbit before it hits the major media, giving an analyst (and subsequently his or her client investors) a leg up on the competition. It's also a good place to pick up the scent of a red herring, potentially throwing markets into turmoil by indiscriminately overvaluing or trashing an unsuspecting stock.
  3. I'm happy that the fine folks at the Wynnewood Refinery in Garvin County, Okla., are safe tonight, despite what their neighbors at KOTV may have reported. I'm not so pleased that a little snafu like this can cause a global ripple effect that further drives up prices at the pump. Filling up my SUV is already a hideous experience. So please, whether you work at a TV station in Tulsa or publish a parish newsletter in Anchorage, let's all try to be at the top of our game people. The Internet is an indiscriminate medium, treating every Web page on Earth as if it were of equal importance and credibility. In this environment, one slip of the keyboard can spell disaster.

Interesting to note, a very similiar incident occured just two weeks ago when a fake email was published on Engadget, subsequently sinking the Apple stock price.

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By Trisped on 5/31/2007 1:08:40 AM , Rating: 3
Is there a link to this apple email thing?

Yeah, I never would have thought of a web page causing such a problem. Still, I bet they have a lot of gas at those refineries, so a fire would mean a large new shipment would be required.

On the side note of $3.29 a galion for gas. In souther California it is about $3.37, which is lower then it has been the last month. They also say the reason it is so high is because of the cost of refining it. Since we can't build any more refineries without the enviromentalists stepping in to stop construction, all gas is refined in the same buildings. We pay more so they can use higher level tech to increase their production. On the positive side it will make it easier to switch to an alternative fuel source...

RE: ?
By KristopherKubicki on 5/31/2007 1:35:55 AM , Rating: 2
RE: ?
By w1cked74 on 5/31/2007 8:03:13 AM , Rating: 2
$3.29 sure sounds better then the $3.49 I have been paying in my area.......

RE: ?
By novacthall on 5/31/2007 8:26:05 AM , Rating: 4
Could always be worse. You could be buying gas in Europe.

RE: ?
By Regs on 5/31/07, Rating: 0
RE: ?
By Regs on 5/31/2007 3:31:00 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention that England compared to the USA, or any other EU nation, is about 1/10th (at the least) our size.

RE: ?
By Xerstead on 5/31/2007 3:55:03 PM , Rating: 2
But we're still paying around $2 per liter for diesel/unleaded in England. Public transport is only usefull if you live near the city centre, and even then is expensive. £2 (~$4) for a short 5-10 min bus journey. Or £4 (~$8) for a similar trip on the subway.
A train ticket to London (about 35 miles, direct, no transfers) costs over £20 (~$40).
I don't know how this compares to the rest of the US, but I found the public transport in N.Y.C. to be much cheaper.

RE: ?
By AraH on 6/3/2007 2:34:23 PM , Rating: 2
funny thing is petrol is cheaper than water in saudi arabia...

now that's bound to get my rating down...

RE: ?
By Christopher1 on 6/1/2007 8:17:33 PM , Rating: 2
That the way they get away with high gasoline prices and lots of public transportation: they are a small country compared to us.

RE: ?
By Spivonious on 5/31/2007 3:49:16 PM , Rating: 2
We can only hope that these high gas prices lead to more demand for quality public tranist.

My city has a bus system. My job is a 10 minute drive from my house. There are busses that go by my house and by my job. The problem is they're not the same bus. I'd have to ride one from my house into the city, change buses at the station and ride another one out to my job. This would take about an hour and cost me over $10. And the transit authority wonders why no one rides the bus.

RE: ?
By Xerstead on 5/31/2007 4:09:10 PM , Rating: 4

In a place like England your Job is one or two blocks away.


All the jobs are located in the industrialized and commercial sectors of major metropolitan areas...


...where mass transit is widely available.

Only once you get into the town/city centre.

God forbid if they have to use their 60 mpg rated mini-coopers.

Ever driven one? Not my favorite car either, but a lot more fun than the huge Mercedes I drive all day for work.
On a side note, I saw one that had been modified up to 200Hp. Not much compared to some, but in a car of it's size...

RE: ?
By morino on 6/1/2007 8:14:51 PM , Rating: 2
A consideration that no-one has mentioned is that the average salary is also higher than US. You have to also take into account earning power and buying power.

Everything in the U.K is vastly more expensive, so gas might not be as bad for brits.

RE: ?
By peternelson on 6/2/2007 2:13:42 AM , Rating: 2
Salaries may be higher but the major expense: mortgages for purchasing real estate property are very high in comparison because we don't have much land here. Any salary differential is wiped out by the house prices, leaving gas/petrol still a painful expenditure, alongside car insurance, parking fees etc

RE: ?
By watkinsaj on 6/2/2007 10:40:53 AM , Rating: 2
You will find that average salaries are not higher in the UK:

This table shows Purchasing Power Parity figures, so is the most accurate reflection of the average buying power in the various countries. The gap is smaller than it was, but your longer working hours keep you ahead.

RE: ?
By noxipoo on 5/31/2007 2:24:16 PM , Rating: 2
i pay $3.79 by my house in chicago, and it's the cheapest around. and no, i don't live in a mansion, its a blue collar neighborhood on the southside.

RE: ?
By apollo7 on 5/31/2007 8:22:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, Gas prices have been terrible. I just moved to the Chicago area, and if you've been following gas prices then you know that Chicago has been in the thicket of it all. Driving through downtown every morning I cringe as I pass a gas station and see the range of gas from $3.97 a gallon up to even $3.99 a gallon for unleaded . I pay $3.74 just a few miles north.

RE: ?
By kleinwl on 5/31/2007 9:57:43 AM , Rating: 1
The main issue is that California requires special blends, with practically every town wanting something different. These logistical costs are passed on. Since it is a special blend, very few refineries are set up to make it and those are running close to full capacity. So any little reduction in availability send gas prices skyrocking.

RE: ?
By Ringold on 5/31/2007 6:03:30 PM , Rating: 2
It also requires down time to switch between blends, and large sums of money likely to store the gas for future use while the refinery moves on to another blend.

Regular Unleaded, Premium, Diesel, Jet-A and 100LL is all that ought to be needed as a national standard.. And 100LL could easily enough be replaced with Regular Unleaded if the FAA and aerospace industry didnt have to fear massive waves of lawsuits. Jet-A / Diesel / Kerosene could all be merged as well, and most V8s take Regular these days, leaving us with.. Regular & Diesel as reasonable short term (5-10yr?) goals. That's my speculation, anyway.

RE: ?
By Christopher1 on 6/1/2007 8:19:39 PM , Rating: 2
Really, they should make gasoline as absolutely clean as possible nowadays. There should be no reason for the 'black cloud of smoke' or ANY smoke really coming from a car nowadays.

RE: ?
By chick0n on 6/3/07, Rating: -1
RE: ?
By Finch75 on 5/31/2007 10:00:32 AM , Rating: 2
"Could be worse" - yeah, that's true...
So let's see... I'm currently paying more than € 1.40, which is USD 1.90.
Oh yes, that is the price per LITER, not per gallon.
Per gallon, it's about $7.20.

Hope that makes you feel a little better ;-)

RE: ?
By noxipoo on 5/31/2007 2:26:07 PM , Rating: 2
well, the US doesn't tax gas and cars to hell like you guys it seems. i'd actually go protest with a sign if they ever did congestion charges here.

RE: ?
By Spivonious on 5/31/2007 3:50:55 PM , Rating: 2
I heard on the news this morning that NYC is thinking about doing just that. I think it's a great idea as it would remove traffic problems from NYC and force more people to use trains and buses which would decrease the fares.

RE: ?
By Xerstead on 5/31/2007 4:28:59 PM , Rating: 2
The British government wants more motorists to use public transport and tries to get the motorist off the road with increased taxes, 'Improving' the road layout (cough...splutter...) and millions of Speed cameras.
But dispite, the introduction of road/congestion charging increased road/fuel taxes etc. No improvement or increased capacity, seems to have been made to the current P.T. system.
Also, the cost of P.T. in Britian continues to increase well above the rate of inflation.
So it's stil quicker and cheaper for me to travel by car for most journeys.

RE: ?
By StevoLincolnite on 6/1/2007 3:01:05 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like Australia.
I'm a rural part of South Australia the price of fuel is $1.49
$1.49 per letre ROUGHLY works out to be 5.59 a gallon.
Which add the fact that for every American dollar you can buy 70 cents of aussie money...
And I think its even worst if you convert it to EU >.>

RE: ?
By exanimas on 6/1/2007 7:58:23 PM , Rating: 1
Just a correction on your money conversion, 1 USD = 1.20295 AUD according to So in USD it would be about $4.65, still much worse than the ~$3 per gallon of regular where I live.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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