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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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Gas prices are not the issue SUVs are.
By Flunk on 5/31/2007 9:49:41 AM , Rating: 2
If you don't like the amount it costs you to fill up your SUV ditch it and move to a more fuel efficient car. I've noticed that 90% of the time SUVs only have one person in them. Why do you need an enormous SUV just to shuttle one person around?




RE: Gas prices are not the issue SUVs are.
By bldckstark on 5/31/2007 1:19:12 PM , Rating: 2
In Indiana they have a law that requires all kids under the age of 8 to be in a car seat. All child seats I have ever seen exceed 20" in width. A car seat is less than 60" in width at the hip. If you have three kids or more, you must have a vehicle that has three rows of seats in order to have them all in car seats. I haven't seen a vehicle that gets better than 24mpg city that has three rows of seats.

I drive a Neon, my wife drives a Suburban. She drops the kids at daycare, then drives all by herself to work. That means that 50% of the time she is she is the only person in the vehicle. I use about 2 gallons of gas per day to get to and from work in my Neon and she uses about 0.66 gallon. If we traded for a Honda minivan, one of the most efficient people movers with it's cylinder de-activation technology, she would use about 0.6 gallons. That adds up to a whole 0.06 gallon difference.

Large vehicles have always been required to move families around. Look at the conversion vans of lore, or the station wagon. All the way back to the connestoga wagon. They required more horses to pull. Vehicle makers need to keep making engines more efficient, but large vehicles will always require more fuel to drive. The SUV argument will always exist in some form or another.

Minivans are not much better at sipping gas, why don't we bash those for a while? I haven't seen any hybrid minivans on the new car lots either.

Simple physics - lots of cargo, lots of fuel.


By gradoman on 5/31/2007 2:08:01 PM , Rating: 2
And there are 365 days in a year. So, do the math on that one before saying it doesn't add up or it is not worth it.

Sometimes, a little turns into a lot.


By Spivonious on 5/31/2007 3:55:41 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps you should be driving less than 60 miles per day to work.

And continuing the first reply to your post, .06 gallons adds up to almost 22 gallons for a year. That's like two extra fill ups for your Neon.


RE: Gas prices are not the issue SUVs are.
By othercents on 5/31/2007 4:33:53 PM , Rating: 2
There are multiple problems and SUVs are just a part of it. Granted every person can come up with a reason why they need their SUV or what other vehicle they drive, and on the flip side someone can come up with the reason why certain people don't. SUVs are useful even for a single male especially when you have large dogs and carry equipment all the time. What is real interesting is while people bash SUVs, Trucks are just as bad and usually rarely used for their intended purpose. I do have friends that own a commuter vehicle and a truck, so that they can save on gas.

I think the main two problems with gas prices is engine size/performance and speeds. There are many people in the US that want higher performance cars that have engines that suck more gas. If we backed down the performance to more "normal" levels then you would also decrease fuel consumption. Plus people have to learn to spend less gas when they leave a stop sign.

Most people who drive during non rush hour times are driving 10+mph over the speed limit especially on the freeway. Usually in Denver it is 80mph in a 55mph zone. You can increase you MPG by 2 to 5 gallons if you slowed down. I know that when I take a long trip I get 35mpg at 65mph, but only 27mpg at 80mph in my Nissan Altima. Yes it is a V6 and I love my performance, but if I really cared about the price of gas I would do everything to make my MPG as high as possible.

Other


By Ringold on 5/31/2007 6:19:39 PM , Rating: 2
The points been made in the media enough that driving fast burns more gas, so it's a safe assumption that when people drive fast they're aware they're going to have to pay more next time they pull in to the pump.

People want what they drive, and people drive the way they want, they pay the price for their vehicles and for their gas, and they're aware of it all. I see no reason for anybody to preach to them about it.

People that're concerned about their gas bills (which are fairly close to historic lows in terms of % of disposable income), then they'll drive as you described. Otherwise, they'll pay more. Not the government, not taxpayers, but they will pay their gas bill. None of our business.


"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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