Gas prices were high when I was in Hawaii but they are rising fast now that I am back in Vermont with a gallon of gas costing over $3.00. On the one hand, I think that price is incredibly low considering the finite nature of the petroleum resources of our planet and the fact that it takes a couple million years to make new oil. But on the other hand, I see the Chairman of Exxon/Mobil pulling down nearly a $Billion in compensation last year and all oil companies enjoying record astronomical profits and something just doesn’t compute.
It seems that every time gas prices rise there’s a convenient excuse. Last time it was the refineries along the Gulf Coast that were damaged by Katrina and this time we are told to blame it on Iran and Nigeria. It is just a bit too coincidental that these price increases come at a time when gasoline usage will increase because of the summer weather. It is not coincident, however, that these increased prices result in huge windfall profits for the oil companies. Don’t blame your corner store because they are still only making a few cents on a gallon, it is those same oil companies that met in secret at the White House to plot “energy” strategy that are cleaning up.
While these guys are stuffing dollars in every pocket on their suits the cost of living is rising faster than increases in wages and we are all paying for their new suits with more pockets! Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders said this week that there was no doubt that if George Bush called all the CEOs of the oil companies to a meeting in the Oval Office and said to them “in a loud voice” (maybe in his “decider’ voice) – “Hey guys we have to have lower gas price!” that it would be about five minutes before prices fell at the pump.
While it is true that there is an increasing demand for oil, these price increases are not based upon a lack of supply in the supply and demand equation because there are now record reserves of oil. It is certainly not because we haven’t drilled in the Alaskan Wilderness, either. It seems to me that it is a conscious effort on the part of the oil companies to use world events as excuses to raise prices and increase profits.
The best short-term answer to limit our dependence upon foreign oil is conservation. It is outrageous that the cars being produced today have poorer gas mileage than those produced 20 years ago, especially when technology exists now to achieve gas mileage well over 40 mpg! If we spent only a fraction of the money that we are spending on a mistaken war in Iraq on energy conservation we could reduce our dependence upon foreign oil by millions of gallons a day!
The President promoted some initiatives to increase the production of ethanol. On the face of this it seems like a good idea. Make some fuel from the huge surplus agricultural capacity. The problem with this concept is that to plant, harvest, process and transport ethanol (it is highly corrosive so it can only be shipped in special rail cars) requires more energy than it produces. So, to make a gallon of ethanol might require a gallon and a half of gasoline. That’s some voodoo economics for sure!
As the rest of the world catches up to us in oil consumption there is going to be an increasing tension over the remaining oil supplies. The wars in the middle east are about oil. I don’t think we’d care much about Irag if they didn’t have huge oil reserves. We are establishing ourselves as a permanent presence in that part of the world with huge military bases and interference with countries and governments to protect the oil for ourselves. World politics is being driven by oil because forward thinkers in even the most conservative governments see the handwriting on the wall. The world’s oil supply is woefully insufficient to meet the world’s oil demand.
The easiest way to reduce oil consumption is to conserve and to make energy efficiency not only a smart choice but the right financial move, too. Here in Vermont, years ago we established a public utility who’s responsibility it was to generate energy through efficiency. When they pay an incentive to put in energy efficient lighting or heating we are buying some of the least expensive energy that there is. This needs to become a national obsession. We need to embrace the long term vision of a world that is truly energy starved and start the planning now on how to achieve energy independence rather than spending our precious resources (now about $95 Billion a year!) in fighting wars to secure oil.
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