Flying customers have been getting emails from airlines about "speculators" and the evils of trading in futures markets. They’re sending around this nice little piece of astroturf: www.StopOilSpeculationNow.com.
Here’s economist Russ Roberts’ take:
Three thoughts. First, blaming speculators for high prices has
always seemed to me like blaming the thermometer for how hot it is.
Second, airlines speculate all the time on oil prices. I assume they
hedge against future price increases. Notice that in this plea, they
distinguish between paper speculators and "real" speculators as if that
matters. Third, is it not strange that of all the policies that the
airlines could advocate to bring down gas prices (more drilling, a
change in environmental regulations, etc,) they choose this one?
The cynic in me says that the airlines must think it’s good PR to
look like they’re fighting for lower prices and attacking speculators
is about as riskless an approach you could choose.
This tack reflects real desperation on the part of the airlines. When one industry starts picking on another, that means they’re preparing the way for government bailouts or some sort of favoritism. Maybe, like Russ says, they’re awkwardly trying apologize to customers for prices by scapegoating traders. It sure seems weird to me. I don’t think any intelligent person in the airline industry honestly believes futures traders are working some sort of Hogwarts wizardry on the fundamentals of the market. Of course, the activity of speculators means gas prices are less volatile than they would otherwise be, and that there will be jet fuel in two-three-or-five years.
I wonder if there is some other motivation for such an aggressive and overtly political campaign to interfere in oil futures. Could there be something more going on?