Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Politics of Oil

(Cross Posted on Tech Policy)

As I was listening to the politicians and people complaining about the gas prices, I could
barely restrain myself in saying: "Where were these people when gasoline
was 99 cents a gallon in the summer of 2000 1999? So now, Suck it up and pay you fools!"

Of course, that is not a very productive strategy. The editors at the Oil Drum have released a very nice statement titled The Politics of Oil: The Discourse Must Change that should be read by the widest audience possible. Please forward it to your friends, and family, and ask them to do the same. Policy Pete on the other hand is in no mood to use such polite language. I am reproducing his post verbatim:

Every two hours or so a new wave of hypocrisy skims in from the hinterlands, roars over the beltway, and hisses to an end somewhere near Chevy Chase Circle. The Volk are clearly upset. $3 gas has them scared and angry. Their winter heating bills haven't yet been fully paid and now the gougers down at the local pumps want them to kiss away $60 for each fill-up. They're right to be alarmed. They're wrong to be mad - it's a democracy after all and they and the freebooters they elect have been in charge. Everyone could see
it coming for a generation; no one did anything useful. It's their own damn fault. Let them suffer the consequences for being such rash fools.

Except that's not the way democracies work. The denizens of the beltway now have to scurry around and find some lamb worth sacrificing to assuage the anger. This part of the game is well understood: it's called The Chant. The Chant tends to get started over in Virginia, somewhere near Great Falls. What'll work? Let's see: heads must roll? No, not bloody enough. Heads of assistant secretaries on pikes along Pennsylvania Avenue might do, hard to say, but it still may not be enough. Another parade of oil company executives forced to sit quietly and listen to Nancy Pelosi at her illogical best? No, frightening indeed but not theatrical enough. Windfall profit taxes? From Dubya? not in this life. But don't worry. Once The Chant gets going, it gets loud, really loud really quickly, and the crew on Capitol Hill will get it frighteningly well. They'll do something, however temporary and ineffective, but it'll be enough to bring quiet for a while.

And then what? We're left with $75 oil, a planet in trouble, the fourth or fifth failed presidency in a row, leaders who are worthless, and an economy distorted by hideous pretzel-like structural problems while chugging merrily along toward the wall.

Come on, lighten up a bit. There's a whole transition away from fossil fuels to start to puzzle out. If you want to drown your tears in your beer, try ethanol instead. Works better and faster anyway, if you can get some.

In a few weeks time, the gasoline prices are likely to come down from $3 level to somewhere around $ 2.60 - $2.70 range and stay there unless a some storm, geopolitical or weather related, hits us. The TV and papers will soon forget that we still stand on the edge of a crisis, life will go on, until we are really hit hard on our heads. It will be a time when 3 dollar gasoline will start to look like good ol' days!


Blogger john a. bailo said...

Maybe you can explain this to me. I was looking at a chart of gasoline usage in CA in this decade. Yes, the point was that it started falling dramatically as gas went to $3. However, what I couldn't understand is why consumption was going up so rapidly between 2001 and 2004 -- because prices were still going up and we were supposed to be in a recession...right? So why did we buy so much more gas each year??

4:23 PM  

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