Sunday, June 15, 2008

You're gonna wind up workin' in a gas station

Ever think that maybe, just maybe, that Big Oil was illegally price fixing? Well, they are:
Criminal charges have been laid against 13 people and 11 companies accused of fixing the price of gas in Quebec, the federal Competition Bureau said Thursday.

The suspects and companies operated in Victoriaville, Thetford Mines, Magog and Sherbrooke.

Three companies and one person pleaded guilty in Quebec Superior Court in Victoriaville on Thursday to related charges.

The companies, which included Ultramar Ltd., face up to $2 million in fines in total.

. . . The bureau alleges the gas retailers — individual operators who ran their stations under the banners of Shell, Esso, Petro-Canada and Irving oil — called each other to agree on prices.

2 things here:

1st, note that the "fixing" was allegedly done by individual retailers. The companies would never, ever, tell their dealers to do something like that. Yeah, right.

2nd, it's Canada, so while it may affect some of us (cough'darkblack'cough), what's the importance to Americans?

This from Ultramar Ltd.'s web site:
Ultramar Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Valero

And who is Valero? Here in L.A., no one I had heard of before about 4 or 5 years ago when their gas stations started popping up like mushrooms after a rain storm. But here's who they say they are:
Valero Energy Corporation is a Fortune 500 company based in San Antonio, Texas, and incorporated in Delaware. Valero's common stock is listed for trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "VLO." The company has approximately 22,000 employees and assets valued at $38 billion.

The largest refiner in North America, Valero has an extensive refining system with a throughput capacity of approximately 3.1 million barrels per day. The company's geographically diverse refining network stretches from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and West Coast to the Caribbean.

Valero has a mid-stream logistics system that supports Valero's refining and marketing operations.

A marketing leader, Valero has approximately 5,800 retail and wholesale stores in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean under various brand names including Valero, Diamond Shamrock, Shamrock, Ultramar, and Beacon. The company markets on a retail and wholesale basis through a bulk and rack marketing network in 44 U.S. states, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Emphasis mine. Big-time players, apparently. Here's more from Wikipedia about this company many of us in SoCal had never heard of before:
Valero was created on January 1, 1980, as a spinoff from the Coastal States Gas Corporation. At the time, it was the largest corporate spinoff in U.S. history. Valero took over the natural gas operations of the LoVaca Gathering Company, a defunct subsidiary of Coastal States Gas. The name Valero comes from MisiĆ³n San Antonio de Valero, the mission founded in 1718 from which the city of San Antonio started, which is better known worldwide as The Alamo.

The company acquired a small oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1981, and began refining operations in 1984.

In 1997, Valero spun off its refining and retail divisions into a separate company, which kept the Valero name. At the same time, the remaining divisions, which consisted primarily of natural gas operations, were acquired by PG&E. Later that year, Valero acquired Basis Petroleum, which left it with four refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

Valero acquired a Paulsboro, New Jersey, refinery in 1998. This was the company's first refinery outside of the Gulf Coast area.

In 2000, Valero purchased ExxonMobil's Benicia, California, refinery and interests in 350 Exxon-branded service stations in California, mainly in the San Francisco Bay area. The company also began retailing gasoline under the Valero brand. In June 2001, the company acquired the Huntway Refining Company, along with two asphalt plants on the west coast.

On December 31, 2001, Valero completed its acquisition of Ultramar Diamond Shamrock. This merger left Valero with over 4,700 retail sites in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. With this acquisition, Valero also received ownership of Shamrock Logistics L.P., which was renamed Valero L.P. This limited partnership owns and operates a 7200 mile (11500 km) pipeline network and 57 refined product terminals in the U.S., and is publicly traded (Valero maintained a 13.6 percent indirect interest through Valero GP Holdings, LLC, also publicly traded, which in 2006 it fully divested).

Starting in 2002, Valero has been expanding its marketing to the East Coast, specifically the Northeast and Florida, using the Valero brand.

On April 25, 2005, Valero agreed to buy Premcor, Inc., for 8 billion in cash and stock to become the largest U.S. refiner, as record prices for gasoline and other fuels boost profits.

On June 30, 2005, Valero announced it was beginning a two-year process of converting Diamond Shamrock stations to the Valero brand.

And as we might expect:
According to the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute, the Valero Energy Corporation is the 28th most toxic corporation in America, releasing 3,363,294 pounds of toxic chemicals into the air annually. [1] Valero has been sued on multiple occasions for allegedly damaging the environment, and was named as a defendant in suits in 2000 and 2001 pertaining to the contamination of groundwater.[2] In a 2005 Clean Air Act settlement with the EPA, Valero agreed, along with Sunoco, to reduce annual harmful emissions by 44,000 tons annually across 18 refineries.[3]

In other words, a typical GWBush-style Oil company. On that note, who did they give money too? Lots of folks, both Rep & Dem:

ANDREWS, ROBERT E House of RepsDemocratNJ 01G$2,50010/19/1999
BARTON, JOE LINUS House of RepsRepublicanTX 06G$5,00012/01/1999
BENTSEN, KENNETH E JR House of RepsDemocratTX 25G$1,00009/30/1999
BENTSEN, KENNETH E JR House of RepsDemocratTX 25P$1,00006/02/2000
BENTSEN, KENNETH E JR House of RepsDemocratTX 25G$1,00009/21/2000
BENTSEN, KENNETH E JR House of RepsDemocratTX 25G$1,00002/15/2000
BINGAMAN, JEFF SenateDemocratNM --G$1,00006/11/1999
BONILLA, HENRY House of RepsRepublicanTX 23G$1,00009/30/1999
BONILLA, HENRY House of RepsRepublicanTX 23G$1,00003/08/1999
BUSH, GEORGE W PresidentRepublicanTX --G$1,00005/27/1999
BUSH, GEORGE W PresidentRepublicanTX --G$2,50004/01/1999
CANTOR, ERIC IVAN House of RepsRepublicanVA 07G$50006/02/2000
CHAFEE, LINCOLN D SenateRepublicanRI --G$1,00006/02/2000
DELAY, THOMAS DALE House of RepsRepublicanTX 22G$5,00009/11/2000
EDWARDS, CHET House of RepsDemocratTX 11G$1,00010/02/2000
EDWARDS, CHET House of RepsDemocratTX 11G$1,00006/02/2000
FROST, MARTIN House of RepsDemocratTX 24G$1,00008/24/1999
FROST, MARTIN House of RepsDemocratTX 24G$1,00002/15/2000
GONZALEZ, CHARLES A House of RepsDemocratTX 20G$1,00009/21/2000
GONZALEZ, CHARLES A House of RepsDemocratTX 20G$1,00003/08/1999
GONZALEZ, CHARLES A House of RepsDemocratTX 20G$1,00002/15/2000
GONZALEZ, CHARLES A House of RepsDemocratTX 20G$50012/01/1999
GREEN, RAYMOND EUGENE "GENE" House of RepsDemocratTX 29G$2,50002/15/2000
LAMPTON, DUNNICA OH House of RepsRepublicanMS 04G$1,00010/02/2000
LOTT, C TRENT SenateRepublicanMS --P$2,50005/27/1999
RODRIGUEZ, CIRO D House of RepsDemocratTX 28G$1,00003/08/1999
RODRIGUEZ, CIRO D House of RepsDemocratTX 28G$50006/02/2000
SANDLIN, MAX House of RepsDemocratTX 01G$1,00009/30/1999
SANDLIN, MAX House of RepsDemocratTX 01G$1,00002/15/2000
SANDLIN, MAX House of RepsDemocratTX 01P$1,00006/02/2000
SMITH, LAMAR SEELIGSON House of RepsRepublicanDC 21G$1,00003/08/1999
SMITH, ROBERT C SenateRepublicanNH --G$1,00006/02/2000
SNEARY, LOY E House of RepsDemocratTX 14G$50002/15/2000
SNEARY, LOY E House of RepsDemocratTX 14G$1,00010/02/2000
SNOWE, OLYMPIA J SenateRepublicanME --G$1,00010/02/2000
TREEN, DAVID CONNER House of RepsRepublicanLA 01G$50005/27/1999
WAREING, PETER STAUB House of RepsRepublicanTX 07G$1,00001/10/2000
WHITMAN, CHRISTINE TODD SenateRepublicanNJ --G$5,00008/09/1999
YOUNG, C W BILL House of RepsRepublicanDC 10G$1,00010/19/1999

Disheartening how many TX-D Reps are on that list from 2000.

According to this
, retired CEO William Greehey is a big Republican supporter, donating $$$ to:

Mitt Romney
Kay Bailey Hutchinson
John Cornyn
Ciro Rodriguez (DINO)
Lamar Smith
Henry Bonilla
Bill Richardson (?)
Pete Sessions
and of course,
George W. Bush

Interestingly, Richardson sold a good sized chunk of Valero stock last year:

SANTA FE, N.M. — Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, who promotes renewable energy as a way to wean the nation off of fossil fuels, has sold his stock holdings in the country's largest independent refining company.

Richardson owned stock in Valero Energy Corp. worth between $100,001 and $250,000, and had stock options valued between $250,001 and $500,000, according to a financial disclosure report filed earlier this month with the Federal Election Commission.

Richardson said Thursday he sold the oil company stock because "it was just a distraction" in his campaign.

"Because I was getting questions, I just felt it was best to divest myself," Richardson said.

However, he lauded Valero, calling it a "very reputable company that does important work."

Richardson served on Valero's board of directors from 2001 until June 2002, when he resigned after winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in New Mexico. He served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration in 1998-2000.

Oh, that explains it. Great, Now one of the alleged rising stars is a Big Oil suckup. You just dropped far lower on my personal support list, Bill.