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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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RE: ?
By Regs on 5/31/2007 3:29:51 PM , Rating: 0
I don't get that comparison. 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.

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

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.

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