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Friday, March 22, 2019

When the price of gasoline rises, so does political demagogy, especially during an election year. Frustrated drivers, infuriated by the spinning numbers that denude their wallets at the pump, understandably want to believe the loudmouthed candidate who promises cheaper fuel if only the magic of the marketplace is freed from environmental safeguards, bureaucratic regulations and burdensome taxes. Even an obvious charlatan like Newt Gingrich can get a little mileage by claiming he will fill their tanks for $2.50 a gallon, or that the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to transport tar-sand petroleum from Canada to Mexico for export, will somehow reduce prices here.

Yet America has already tried the cure prescribed by Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and the Republicans in Congress. Under the Bush administration, Dick Cheney worked in secrecy with the oil industry to remove all obstacles to domestic drilling, regardless of the cost to the air, water, land, and wildlife, not to mention the Treasury. No doubt Cheney and his cronies are gratified by the results, which include increasing production, spectacular profits, and less dependence on foreign resources, as well as spreading environmental degradation.

What the oil boom has not brought so far is a reduction in consumer prices, now approaching the same level as during the summer of 2008, before the economic crash. Worldwide recovery has meant a return to rising prices — mitigated only by trends toward energy conservation, urban revival, and fuel economy. In those hopeful signs may be found the only reliable escape from the global energy spiral.

Certainly Barack Obama seemed to understand that survivable future would require us to move from carbon-based energy to cleaner sources derived from the sun, wind, waves, and biomass — and most importantly, in the short term, many modes of conservation. As president he has spent significant capital toward those ends, both rhetorically and in his budgets, while pragmatically supporting and even extending Cheney’s “drill baby, drill” program. As the New York Times reported on Wednesday, the combined effects of increased domestic production and lower fuel consumption are substantially diminishing U.S. dependence on OPEC oil.

So why do consumers continue to pay more and more, with no relief in sight? The simple answer is that oil and gas respond to a world market that demands more and more oil to power growing economies abroad where people want to drive cars, eat meat and imitate the wasteful, polluting and ultimately dangerous lifestyle of the West — even as Western nations seek to reduce those harmful patterns.

Drilling everywhere may please the corporate patrons of Gingrich and Romney, but it won’t reduce gas prices here unless the world economy slumps again. The technologies that produce more oil from old fields here are highly damaging to the environment, ruining and depleting scarce water resources that will eventually leave many places uninhabitable. The unprecedented heat wave now scaring scientists here and abroad is a clear warning against the hubris of the oil lobby and its political echoes.

Many cities are already embarked on the pathway out of our enslavement to oil, by reducing fuel consumption, rebuilding transit, and encouraging conservation, clean energy, and smarter development patterns, all of which create far more employment than the oil boom ever will. The president hasn’t hindered oil production, as his opponents claim, but he hasn’t abandoned his commitment to a secure and healthy future — and he must not.

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4 responses to “Can We Escape The Global Energy Spiral?”

  1. Gary says:

    This is absurd ! Prices are established based on supply and demand . In any case being so dependent on the Arabs for our oil and considering the instability we face with Iran I would expect to see us jump at the chance too get oil from a stable supplier and friend here in North America . We have upwards of a century of oil if we decide to exploit the areas where we know oil exists . ( Alaska , Atlantic coast , Pacific coast , Gulf of Mexico Upper Mid West etc . ) We need a tactical / strategical plan in other words fossil fuel for the next ten to twenty years with Green energy phasing in as it becomes a viable alternative both in supply , distribution and cost.

  2. David Hill says:

    I don’t think Obama did anything to reduce oil consumption. By supporting Detroit after they lived on sales of SUVs (‘trucks’) for years, and encouraging people to buy new cars and trucks, Obama just reinforced the status quo. Politicians of both parties have been doing this for years, allowing automakers to reclassify big cars as trucks exempt from restrictions, and so on. They still fly around in big jet planes, burning up huge amounts of fuel. These politicians cannot lead us, but greedy materialism as fostered by major media is. Unless something changes (perhaps a real green party emerges?), we will see a day when only a few wealthy people still drive at all, and then all of the oil will be gone.

  3. Gary if the price of gas were truly based on supply and demand why isn’t the price lower? We do not have a supply or demand problem in the US, we are an exporter of gas on the world market. The price of oil is based on speculation on Wall Street and other world markets. Every time something flares in the middle east the price of oil goes up. The US only imports 16% of its oil form the middle east. Most of our oil comes from Canada and domestic supply chains.
    Where did the oil from the north slope of Alaska go? To the world markets. The major oil companies have a self interest in keeping oil prices high because they can sell US crude on the world market instead of refining it and selling it as domestic crude here in the US. My son lives in Wyoming and I live in Michigan. The price of gas in Wyoming is on average $.50 a gallon less there than in Michigan because the oil produced there is refined there and sold locally based on supply and demand in the area. Why is gas cheaper there? Because the pipelines to carry the oil to the Koch brothers refineries in Texas do not exist yet. When the pipelines get built and they will, the price of gas will certainly rise in Wyoming.

  4. I don’t know why gas price’s have to go up as we all know we need to conserve hopfully the gas mongers are reinvesting in gas alternatives there are now 7billion people on this planet when you take from the middle somethings gotta give on the top to fill the void everybody knows that

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