Don’t Get Hosed Again!

The only people I actually feel sorry for in this day of high gas prices are truckers, taxi and delivery drivers, who have no choice in the matter. The rest of us made our bed, and it’s about time we slept in it.

We have been paying far less for gasoline than just about anyone else in the world for many years. After the last two gas crises, countries in Europe and Asia got the hint, and took steps to wean themselves from their over-dependence on petroleum. So, they taxed themselves, and used the money to build better roads, and a series of transportation infrastructures in all of their major cities. They also demanded more of their car companies, and their vehicles get as much as double the mileage of our average vehicle.

The result was, they paid more for each gallon of gasoline, but they weren’t spending as much of their income on fuel, because they could take public transportation everywhere, and their cars got better gas mileage. See, here’s a sad mathematical fact, ladies and gentlemen; if you pay $4 per gallon and get 40 miles per gallon, you’re paying the same amount each year for fuel as someone who’s paying $2 per gallon and only gets 20 miles per gallon.

In the words of Pogo, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

It’s easy to blame the oil companies for this, and believe me, most
of the current price increase is due to greed and criminal behavior, not the actual cost of
providing that fuel to us. But we put ourselves in this position, not
the oil companies. For years, we reveled in our "cheap gas." I remember
Internet forums in which SUV owners would brag about how much they
could drive for very little money compared to Europeans and Asians, and
SUVs and too-big trucks sold became ubiquitous in this country. For
decades, families of five crammed into sedans and survived; suddenly,
beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, people decided they "needed" a big hulking monstrosity in order to
drive their family of five around "in style."

Basically, cheap
gas led us to buy more vehicle than we needed, and thus burn more
gasoline than was necessary. We became addicted to our cars, and our
mass transit infrastructure suffered as a result. Huge cities sprouted
up in the south and the west with absolutely no mass transit plans
whatsoever. It may have improved a bit in recent years, but I remember
visiting Phoenix back in the 1980s, and marveling at the absolutely
horrible bus system they had, even though the population of the
metropolitan area had already topped 2 million.

Back in the 1970s,
when it became obvious that oil supply and cost was going to be a
problem, we got smart for a while. We adjusted our use. We traded in
our high-mileage boat-like vehicles for smaller, higher-mileage cars.
We instituted year-round daylight saving time. We cut back on our
electrical consumption. But when the price of gas dropped again, we
assumed that we would always have plenty of cheap gas, and we forgot
how precarious the price and supply were.

That’s because
neocons have been running the government for 30 years, and they don’t
believe in anything that’s not in front of their face. When we on the
left tried to tell people that oil supplies were finite, they scoffed
and said they weren’t. When the gas tax was raised 4.9 cents per gallon
to pay for infrastructure, the neocons eliminated it the first chance
they could, while asserting some sort of right to cheap fuel. They (and
Bill Clinton, to be honest) did nothing about mileage standards, even
as we tried to warn them that the Chinese and Indian economies were set
to boom, and that kind of strain on supply would cause prices to spike,
they scoffed and said it would never happen.

Well, folks, it
is happening. The spike in gas and oil prices you’re seeing now is not
due to supply problems, yet. It’s due to speculators trying to make a
quick buck and a Republican administration and filibuster-happy
Republican Senators preventing any regulation of the market, and it’s
due to oil companies taking this opportunity to take as much profit as
possible out of us before the hammer comes down.

In other
words, the price of a gallon of gas will go down fairly soon. When we
boot the Republicans out of office, we can expect the price to drop by
about 50% or more. it might even happen sooner than that. But it won’t stay at $2 forever. There is more and
more strain on the supply of oil and gas, and without serious
conservation measures, the price will eventually go to $5 or more and
stay there indefinitely, anyway.

So, let’s learn from this,
shall we? When the price goes back down, let’s demand that Congress
implement a 50-cent tax on gas, and direct all of that money to go
toward alternative energy development and conservation programs, and
let’s not forget this period, and work to make sure that, when gasoline
doubles in price again, we’ll be ready. We have to learn to use less,
and we have to start making solar, wind and geothermal power a reality.
We have to drive less, and do so in vehicles that use far less gasoline
and oil.

We can’t allow ourselves to be hosed again.

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Copyright 2008 The PCTC Blog

One comment

  1. Good post, but I’m not convinced it’s the speculators. I think, looking at oil production levels in OPEC countries (they are producing at capacity) and dramatic demand increases, we could be looking at an emerging energy crisis of dramatic scope. The “good” news is that this would cause a world recession that would at least briefly bring down oil demand. Still, I’m not sure, the more I try to investigate the role of speculation, the clearer it is that nobody really knows. And your bottom line conclusion makes sense — we have to be ready to move to a post-fossil fuel economy, we can’t just pretend like the stuff is never going to run out!

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