Now, those majors are not exactly pussycats or champions of Mr. Average Motorist. Shell, acting as "price leader" this time, has announced that it will raise the price of gasoline by 3, of diesel by 4 pfennigs. Just as day follows night, the others will "coincidentally" raise their prices by the same amount.

Are they exploiting the masses? Not really. They are passing their rising costs to the consumers, and making a pretty penny in the process. But the real conspiracy is unfolding elsewhere. Culprit no. 1 is the exploding price for crude; no. 2 is the imploding value of the euro. Since oil is invoiced in dollars, the inexorable slide of the euro adds a daily surcharge to what OPEC demands to begin with.

But it is nice to have those oil companies to bash; they are hardly loveable creatures and thus make for wonderful targets. And it is nice to get some respite by deflecting popular resentment from the government. Yet this will not change Schröder's real problem. Fuel prices keep exploding, and as they do, governments rake in ever more by way of tax receipts that rise with the price of fuel. Perhaps the oil majors are indeed co-conspirators. But Lady Schröder doth protest too much. Europe's governments profit handsomely along with the so-called sheiks and their minions downstream, the oil majors. And the people know it.