Some analysts contend that Cushing may give a distorted view of market dynamics. “The market seems to be pricing in a looming shortage,” says Tim Evans, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. “But the only place in the U.S. that seems short of crude oil is one very small, but influential location — Cushing, Oklahoma.”

As Felix Salmon has pointed out in another context, Wall Street elites read the business press differently than you and I do. That’s not to say these oil traders needed a WSJ story to turn them on to their idea, but it’s a good example of how we as journalists should train ourselves to read. And let’s offer a round of retroactive applause to the Journal for that 2007 piece, which looks even smarter now.

One critical thing missing from today’s Journal and Times pieces is how much this alleged plot ended up artificially boosting the price of oil. How much impact, if any, did it end up having on consumers?

The Financial Times, at least, reports this:

While the traders were only able to move the price by $1, compared with a $20 rise in the price of oil between January and April 2008, the large volumes involved allowed them to generate their profit.

Needless to say, that information should have been in the Times and the Journal.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.