During the scribe's university days he, a Close Friend and a few units of alcohol were watching a documentary in the genre of 60 minutes and Panorama. The topic centred upon the Dangers of Promiscuity.

During the course of the program there appeared on-screen a young man exhibiting a near complete want of physical attractiveness. He duly recounted his own sorry, cautionary tale and concluded with the words "And that's why I have decided to remain celibate."

Close Friend took a swig and then said:

"Like he has a choice."

That evening came back to the scribe reading the text of Alan Greenspan's remarks to the National Italian American Foundation on 15 October. Notable were the remarks made on the refining issues driving oil prices which neatly (plug alert) supplemented CC's own research. Mr Greenspan identified the lack of refining capacity for the heavier grades of crude as key, but was sanguine in saying free-market competition would come to the rescue in the "short-term".

Who wants to bet the farm on defining "short-term" when it comes to refiners deciding to make the large capex investments required to ease the bottleneck? It's not rocket science: finance guys don't make large capex outlays for short-term profits. They may first have to believe that oil price rises are going to remain persistently high - and that in a world where they have averaged $35.58 since 1970 in real 2004 dollars.

Put another way, this means that continued expansion and the avoidance of a meaningful crisis in the economies of the three largest oil consumers - the USA, Japan and China - must be perceived as a credible long-term proposition.

Mr Greenspan often gets sneered at these days as cheerleader. Yet, most of his utterances are educational, concise and worth reading if only to better understand How Things Work. Nonetheless, there is also truth in the idea that his speeches are skilfully spun to calm the fevered brows, in this case, of SUV drivers everywhere.

But at this juncture he has little choice, right?

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