Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Oil, Oil, Toil, and Trouble (with an apology to Shakespeare)

I think even the three witches of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" would find these Sunday and Monday front pages of the Chicago Tribune interesting. I last commented on public opinion in the crude oil market here.
Over the years I have found that semiotics (the interpretation and theory of signs) is an essential incredient in understanding the "contrary opinion" implications of news and opinion found in the Main Stream Media. It is often not the underlying logic and ostensible purpose of what is said that is important. Instead, it is the emotional coloring of the words, phrases, and sometimes even the associated layout, color scheme, and pictures that matter. These are the signs and emotional code that are the keys to unlocking the status of public opinion as reflected in the media.
On May 27 and 28 the Tribune ran a two part series "Keeping the Oil Flowing". Even the title of the series evokes a worrying possiblity: could the oil stop flowing?
The first scan above this post is the Sunday front page. Notice the headline; it starts with the word "risky" and ends with the phrase "juggling act". The subheading describes the oil business as a "high stakes gamble" where even a pinhole leak in a pipeline can cost consumers billions at the pump. The bottom left diagrams are headed "BP's Trifecta of Trouble". YIKES !!!!
The second scan above this post is the Monday front page. The headline starts with the word "Troubles". The picture below it shows an oil platform listing severely at sea, a very dramatic photo indeed and not one calculated to inspire confidence in the oil industry. The article itself several times cites high costs and risks associated with oil discovery and extraction and points to troubled and expensive projects whose payoffs are still unrealized.
There can be no doubt that at the emotional level this series is written to inspire fear and apprehension about our oil and gasoline supplies. Implicitly it predicts and /or encourages higher prices for both. But commodity price booms reach their peaks when fears of shortages prevail. I think these two front page articles in the Tribune predict an imminent top in oil and gasoline prices.

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