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German Press Review: High Petrol Prices are not Homegrown

As the oil price per barrel climbed to a $42, newspapers in Germany expressed concern that instability in the Middle East, such as the terror attack in Saudi Arabia, could cause petrol prices to climb even higher.

"The price of oil in our times is like the price of bread in the 18th century," surmised the Die Welt. Back then the cost of a loaf of bread was responsible for determining the happiness or unhappiness of the people, their contentment or rebellion, the nation-wide daily explained. Today, "the way of life in industrialized democracies, from living standards to freedom and employment, is reliant on an acceptable oil price, which has now come into question. Not because geologists can’t find enough oil, but because there’s currently a structural crisis of the markets, because China’s cars need to run, because Malaysia has to import and because old oil fields, like the North Sea, are running dry. On top of that," the paper expounded, "is the fear of terrorism, with al Qaeda declaring war on the Saudis, oil tankers being the target of terror and the rest of the Middle East no longer under control, if the U.S. falters."

According to the business daily Handelsblatt, "the dependency on OPEC oil can only become greater in the coming years." The paper said, "high-grade crude oil can’t be as easily obtained anywhere in the world as in the Middle East. Increasing demand, especially in Asia, must be met, otherwise the global market could collapse." Although the high oil prices are difficult to bear, the alternative would be even worse, it noted and pointed out that if OPEC production could not keep up with the demand or if a country like Saudi Arabia suddenly dropped out of the game, the West would be faced with paying even higher prices at the pump.

"The high petrol prices are not home-grown -- the causes are to be found abroad," the Stuttgarter Nachrichten observed. Therefore, it argued, to lower Germany's eco tax as a counterweight to the rising prices would only serve as an invitation to oil producing countries to further push the price of crude oil as high as possible, and this would simply annul competition, instead of stimulating it." The newspaper added that whoever advocates such a drop in taxes must also explain how the government will patch up the resulting hole in public revenue. "Would this lead to less in retirement pay for pensioners, because subsidies have to be cut," the paper questioned. "The outcry of opposition politicians would be deafening," it predicted. "Even if it sounds attractive to set a nation-wide cap on the price for petrol is not only far too expensive, but also ridiculous. It does not sit well with a free market economy."

The Märkische Allgemeine commented that the federal government is doing a good job in ignoring the opposition’s pleas to hold a petrol price summit. "This would only result in a lot of hot air," it said, since a national government does not have any influence on the price of oil, which is determined by the market regulations of supply and demand. At the moment the current demand is very high because of the economic boom in China and the United States. The paper added that fears of more terrorist attacks, which could further cut short oil supplies, have also had their effect. "Everything must be done to demonstrate how our dependence on oil can be decreased once and for all," the paper suggested and said that only a petrol summit which could achieve this would be sensible.

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