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2 August 04

Happy days are here again at the gas pumps, for the oil companies.

Two major oil companies announced huge growth in income last week, with Exxon Mobil scoring a record $5.8 billion in profits for just the second quarter of the year. Royal Dutch/Shell Group reported a 54 percent growth in net income.

As markets reopen this morning for the week, traders will wonder whether the price of oil, just $10 per barrel a few years ago, might hit $45 a barrel. Do we hear $50?

Most consumers don’t begrudge companies a decent profit. But with retail prices running about $1.90 a gallon for regular unleaded nationally and locally, it’s hard not to resent rocketing profit margins.

Industry critics say the lack of competition among a shrinking number of major companies has hurt. Regulators in this country and the European Union need to look more closely at mergers in oil and other industries.

As dependent as Americans are on their vehicles, we can also make personal and policy choices that eventually make a difference. One more person switching to the bus saves a little money; but developing alternative-powered vehicles, better transit systems, new bike trails and bike barns would change the economic equation. Healthier air, less traffic and reasonable prices would make even a guzzler smile.

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