Since publishing “The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked The World’s Oil Market,” I have received a great deal of response (most of it in private correspondence and some in public forums, such as the press and in the courts, where I spent the better part of my summer languishing in sunless quarters).
You would think it would be the very traders about whom I wrote who would have caused the most trouble. This has not been so. On the contrary, most of them have been supportive to an unwarranted degree, including a rare few who have had every reason to be furious about what I wrote, but instead were reasonable.
Many of them also expressed a sincere belief that the global oil market has run off the rails and that prices are no longer set by supply and demand.
Enter the “market fundamentalist” academics, think tanks, lobbyists and politicians. These folks have been some of the worst offenders. What I have had difficulty understanding, mainly, is what they are getting on about and why. They certainly do not get paid well enough by Wall Street to justify the damage they cause by promulgating misinformation. Any money tossed their way is literally kibble, compared with what is being made off their backs. How much does a senator or academic cost? Not very much, I’m afraid.
It seems the issue of not wanting to be labeled a pariah in the well-heeled circles they like to frequent is the primary motivating factor. I myself have been subjected to it. Free caviar is addictive. And why shouldn’t it be?
Those playing umpire in the death match over whether the cost of energy is no longer tied to reality but tied to the capital movements of the big banks, hedge funds and oil traders often get caught in the middle. The Economist, for example, shies away from entertaining the concept that billions of dollars loaded in and out of a relatively compact market (much like “elephants might be loaded in and out of rowboats,” as one veteran oil trader put it) will lead to price swings, despite long-held economic principles that say just that. Why? Because it is too punishing. Recall George Bernard Shaw’s, “Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and, besides, the pig likes it.”
All the more reason why Fortune should be applauded for handling the white noise on a topic that’s nothing if not controversial. Last spring, it excerpted a full chapter of ‘The Asylum,’ and this week, it features the book as its Weekly Read, in a section that reviews top picks from Fortune’s editorial staff.