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Bush Policies Push Up Oil Prices

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United States international military and political policies toward Iraq, Iran and Venezuela are contributing to oil price increases that could push U.S. gasoline prices back above $3 a gallon, according to ConsumersforPeace.org.

"The world oil market is very skittery right now because of attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria," said Nick Mottern, coordinator for ConsumersforPeace.org, "and much of the uncertainty is because these attacks come on top of the continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq, the United States goading of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and the threat of a U.S. attack against Iran."

The struggle of Nigerians living near oil facilities to get more benefit from their oil has brought attacks on oil terminal and platform installations that in the last few weeks has caused a drop of about 25% in Nigerian oil production. Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil exporter and the fifth largest supplier to the U.S. This strife caused world oil prices to rise yesterday; the price of the much desired light sweet crude rose $1.27 a barrel to $61.15.

"The United States has gasoline stockpiles at the moment that should prevent an immediate rise in gasoline prices," Mottern said, " but the major oil companies are likely to use the crude oil prices increases to justify immediate increases at the gasoline pump." Prices could quickly exceed $3 a gallon if the Nigerian attacks continue, as promised, and violent action is taken by the U.S. in Venezuela or Iran.

"These stockpiles will not cushion U.S. consumers for long if the U.S. tries to remove the Chavez government or undertakes bombing of Iran in an attempt to remove its government," Mottern continued. "U.S. consumers are paying and will continue to pay at the gasoline pump for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, that is illegal, and for the totally unwarranted implied threats against Venezuela and Iran. Action against the latter countries will cost even more, on many levels."

"There are 2m-5m barrels (of oil) a day missing because of Iraq," Thierry Desmarest, head of the French oil company Total, said last week, according to the Financial Times. And the paper reported that "Iraq's chaos" has meant that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has not had much spare production capacity to compensate for drops in world oil production, such as that occuring in Nigeria.

"This meant the oil price now rose quickly because of political concerns," the Times said, "such as Iran's nuclear programme..." Scott Ritter, former U.N. weapons inspector, has said he believes the United States has already sent covert military teams into Iran to prepare for an attempt to remove its government. The price is also unstable because there is concern that the United States may try to remove President Chavez and his government.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently compared Chavez to Hitler, and Secretary of State Rice has identified him as a problem, in part, she told Congress, because of his friendship with Fidel Castro. Articles in the business press have also described Chavez as a person that corporations cannot do business with.

These types of commentary have preceded U.S. interventions in Latin America, and should the U.S. administration be planning an assault on Iran, it might wish to have a more friendly government in place in Venezuela to ensure a secure oil supply from that country. Chavez has established friendly relations with the Iranian government.

The United States gets about 14 percent of its oil imports from Venezuela and 11 percent from Nigeria. It does not import oil from Iran, but Iran is the second largest producer in OPEC, hence its major impact on world oil prices. The top sources of U.S. imported oil are: Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, in that order, followed by Venezuela and Nigeria.