4/26/2006

Sacrificing Something

Recently, in response to rocketing fuel costs, President Bush has agreed to release oil from the strategic reserves. In order to do this, he has the EPA ease rules on clean burning gasoline. So basically, we're sacrificing clean air for cheap oil. This got me to thinking.......which is always a dangerous thing.
Bush has also ordered a probe into any price gouging by the oil companies. How many tax payer dollars are going to be spent on this white wash? I'm sure that if this dog and pony show will be limited in size and scope and already has a forgone conclusion, we could all be spared the hyperbole and face the facts the gas prices are based on market demands, and as long as we all are addicted to oil, the demand will always drive the price up.
The other day, before Bush's pronouncement, the radio had a story about people inquiring about bus routes at the local transit authority, with calls going up twenty percent. To me this is a good thing, as people are willing to sacrifice their mobility, while simultaneously reducing market demand.Now that Bush is releasing the oil, however, it's back to bumper to bumper in the morning. I know that if a bus line ran closer than five miles to where I work, I'd be taking it everyday.
People are cutting back everywhere with the prices going up, making sacrifices to keep their vehicles filled with the refined crude. I know that for me, keeping my tank filled with gas is more imporatnt than keeping my lungs filled with tar, so I am quitting smoking. Other people are cutting back other expenses as well.
But the sacrifices people must make won't be good for the economy. If all their extra cash is going for fuel, it doesn't leave much left over for anything else. Some people may choose to sacrifice their vacation plans, as the cost of gas would be too prohibitive. So while I feel that high gas prices may be a wake up call to the oil addicts, the detriment to the economy outweighs any lesson to the consumptive Americans and their Sport Utility Behemoths.
So is this Bush acting as enabler, feeding our addiction to foreign oil? Or is it an attempt to prop up approval ratings which fell a little more with the rise of gas prices? Or is it a smart move, to help the economy to continue to grow? I hate to say it, but........

29 comments:

Jeremy said...

Well...I have mixed feelings about all of this and you kinda laid out everything I've been thinking about.

I'm weighing how much I HATE big oil companies and their several billion dollar profits against how much I'd love to not be paying $3.05 per gallon, against the fact that we all really need to just cut the fuck down.

Now, having Bush give Americans advice on how to battle high gas prices is kinda like my dog telling me how best to hide food from her. Unfortunately even if he did have a sincere, serious plan, I would be skeptical at best. He's fucked up too much for me to forgive, or even bear to see his smirking face on TV. I'm done.

Kvatch said...

Interestingly, or perhaps horrifyingly, since all of the experts are saying that these moves will have no long term affect on prices (at least at the retail level), perhpas this whole manuever was just to achieve the goal of letting Big Oil off of EPA's hook?

Lily said...

You mean relax the standards under the typical ruse of easing the pump crisis but effectively just increasing permissable pollution?

No!

I hear you Jeremy but its a simple thing- as supplies decrease, price for the US consumer will increase. They can talk about ANWR and drilling everywhere, sure, and continue to only focus on supply. But that does not change our infrastructure or make us less dependent. It also does nothing to curb greenhouse gasses.

Personally, I'm irked at the prices of bottled water! Seen them lately! People need to address CONSUMPTION. Yes, lets collectivly boo hoo and bemoan, blame Bush, blame anyone- but WE have to change or its immaterial.

Mr Accountable said...

Hi,

I'm quite politically neutral when it comes to liberalism and conservatism. But I do know a lot about the oil industry, as my grandfather worked for Shell at the terminal in Providence for many years.

It seems to me that despite the obvious Halliburton and Root Brown and Kellogg connections in the administration, the people there have to be relatively sanguine about energy issues. They have to be accountable, in other words, on the very thing they are expert in. They can't really backpedal at any time and claim that they don't know about the energy industry. That would be like Emeril Lagasse saying he didn't know anything about ceviche or Shrimp Mozambique if he were questioned by the press!

And, they have gotten a lot of feedback from the environmental lobby, and they struggle to respond.

Since I "come from oil money", I have had the opportunity to think about this.

1 When the oil really starts running out in 100 years, there won't be anymore gasoline automobiles, and the air in Denver, New York, LA will clear up.

2 Since there won't be any money for the oil companies in 100 years, at some point they will start to produce solar energy. This will cause a sea change in the political texture of the oil companies. Which is really good news, if you ask me.

3 The key to being an oil man or an oil woman, as I know from inheriting this side of the family from my grandfather and my mother, is that much like "The Lineman For the County" in the 1960s song, oil people are sort of mobile, walking the land, knowing the lay of the land, and have a really good idea, from being this kind of Tom Waits/Johnny Appleseed/Expat kind of person, of where oil is. Kind of like a New Yorker can find a new restaurant the week before it opens!

The thing about their politics has a lot to do with the work. They have to hire men to do a lot of dangerous work, dangerous in and of itself, in the oil fields and on oil platforms, and sometimes dangerous (and lonely) insofar as men have to travel far away to Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia, Chad or Brasil for 2 or 3 years at a time to work. Since they have to manage these people in a human resources environment as their career, and they have to be really good at it, it really comes through in how they talk to the public, and in the choices they make in creating their corporate public image. Its a difficult public image to deal with, of course. They have to be as good as Barney Miller is in managing the station house, or as funny as J Peterman is on Seinfeld, but in a really different environment, a real cowboy environment.

I recommend googling or Wiki-ing "oil depletion" or "peak oil theory" to get some really good, scholarly websites that are devoted to managing the "peak oil" situation as it is to develop over the next 50 and 100 years.

And, I have found that "Sonangol" in Angola is a really good example of a "third world" state run oil company that is trying to do a good job, and to avoid excessive traditional oil company interference in their work.

And lastly, as an appertenance to the oil industry, I am also quite inclined to read about the chemical and petrochemical industries as well; in case one wants to follow the money on the scientific side of the oil industry.

- Imagine how different things would be if there were no oil in Texas, Los Angeles or Wyoming, but a lot of oil in Vermont and Rhode Island! It would make a big difference to how the culture of the oil industry has developed to this day!

Well, I hope I have contributed something nice to this conversation.

Thanks for reading.

Ron Nasty said...

If we really want to stick it to them Arabs, we'd stop driving gas guzzlers!

Anita said...

I think, in terms of this current intervention, the 'enabler' analogy hits the nail on the head. We were told just a few months ago that we were dangerously 'addicted' to oil (alcohol) and now they are making it easier and less painful for us to fill up our tanks (get our ... hmmm ... morning martini). Taking it a bit further (again, using the the addiction metaphor) it's like putting a couple of six-packs of beer with a sign that says 'drink me, it'll be ok, go ahead' next to the coffee pot at an AA meeting.

All so that everyone can afford their nice family summer cross-country summmer vacations with Jack (Daniels) and (Bloody) Mary in the back-seats of their SUV's. They'll come back in the fall with happy memories and vote for the nice Republicans in the November elections.

I suggest an antabuse-type of remedy: every time someone fills up their gas tank, they become violently ill.

Lily said...

McTrixie,
What makes you think we are not aware of Peak Oil? Peak Oil is not extimated for a hundred years from now. And peak oil is also not a date that can be circled on a calendar. Peak oil is also about the quality and ease of processing the remaining oil.

I also disgaree that the oil will just run out and BAM solar panels witll appear overnight. TRANSITION takes years, and the time to start is before it happens. The time to reduce emissions is NOW, not a hundred years from now. not when the harm is irrepairable as many experts already think it is, that we have already turned the corner.

Being wealthy from oil money just means that the crisis will not impact you as quickly, but you will breathe the same air as me and you will pay for climate disasters like everybody else.

And you are not neutral. You are advocating a complacent view that by default is harmful. not acting is harmful. not preparing is harmful

YOU should google Peak oil and get your numbers straight.

tp said...

Peak oil is not 100 years from now, thats ridiculous. Not only that, but peak oil estimates do not consider that more people around the world drive, far more than we ever expected. People in poor countries are now being elevated to a higher standard of living. Peak oil guesses considered the old way where most countries were third world and poor. Look at population density in China or India and consider that thanks to getting our jobs and making our possessions they can buy cars too. And they are.

rev. billy bob gisher ©2005 said...

are you still driving that monster SUV lily? shame on you. i think we should tax SUV owners ten grand a year and redistribute the cash to those of us who do not drive them.

Elizabeth Branford said...

Yup, I have a pimped out Escalade I use to cruise for clergy-ass. You didn't complain about my vehicle when I picked you up in it yesterday. Principles, principles.

Lew Scannon said...

It's clear Barbara Boxer doesn't get it!

douglass said...

The #1 problem we are going to face after the onset of peak oil is going to be environmental pollution from nations that do not support environmental regulations when those regulations inhibit economic growth.

spooky said...

E85. We are getting robbed and the gun is sitting right on top of the cash register.

Elizabeth Branford said...

Douglass, do you not think we are an example of one of those countries? Now I believe China is now matching us for pollution, but we have historically been the worst offenders. We can talk about Kyoto, etc. but my question is best left as whether or not you think we are one of those countries?

Hello Spooky. Ominous.

Carrie Oakey said...

Gas prices can't go down until our great President has taken all the oil that rightfully belongs to the Christians from the ground beneath the dirty Muslims feet! Our troops are happy to sacrifice themselves so that we all can drive the biggest cars in the world, because that's what makes America great!

spooky said...

No seriously. E85, flex fuel cars, electric cars, solar cars... Its would be so easy and so possible with a bit of "big" government. If we can give free education, free health care, free housing, and five pound blocks of cheese to people that don't work, well then we can pass a law making it mandatory for all new cars to be flex fuel capable, and make conversion kits tax deductable.

spooky said...

I got to hippie in my last comment, sounded like I cared. What I meant to say is lets get this terrorist monkey off our backs.
That is all.

douglass said...

Elizabeth, to answer your question: I lost my crystal ball

That said, America is held back by more treaties and regulates itself more than places like China and India, that are still growing and whose residents might be inclined to see environmental regulations as a western trick to hamper their development.

Carrie, you have got to be kidding.

Mr Accountable said...

Well, here's some copy, the first paragraph of the Wiki article Peak Oil Theory. I started reading for 5 minutes at some links and it really seems to me that a lot of what the scientists and writers are doing is making sure the public is upset or anything by the seemingly slow process of solarization, during which oil is so much trouble, in pollution, in the Mideast, in politics.

If one takes the argument that "big companies are money hogs" "who only care about the bottom line" et cetera, and then turns it around on this discussion thread, then it is obvious that they will do anything - anything - to keep from getting near bankruptcy. Which of course means solar energy will be ready to roll as the oil runs out. No worries, in other words. Can you imagine how many executives would get fired if they had to close the aluminum smelters, steel mills, the shopping malls and Wal Marts, and the plastic factories, if the oil and gas ran out without preparation? This is a big deal in my family. I would get in so much trouble if I drank the last of the orange juice without going downstairs to get another carton, if one was there. That's the oil side of my family.

The oil money that my family has couldn't really be classified as wealth, even in terms of the area outside New York, Boston or LA. I think he wore a hard hat, actually, especially if he was out on the tank farm or loading gasoline trucks for delivery to gas stations in the Rhode Island area.

The Fall River Shell terminal was closed 10 years ago and is now in the process of being sold and developed for an LNG project. Now, if one wants to get political in the Narragansett Bay area, Liquid Natural Gas is the big issue. There is a project scheduled for Providence, and one for Fall River, and I am not sure what company is developing in Providence; Hess Amerada Oil is the company trying to build this place in Fall River. I don't know how many mailings I have received vis a vis "No LNG!".

And the weird thing is is that there is already an LNG tank in the city, 1/2 mile from my home. Its a puzzle. Getting involved in something like this is why I stay neutral, as it would be too exhausting to take a stand. I try to save that energy for something that matters a whole lot more.

Well, here's the sample of Peak Oil Theory from the English Wikipedia. There are articles in many languages, including Chinese: 哈伯特顶点. If that didn't show up on one's browser, it is Hubbert Peak Point. I suppose it would be easy to make a series of puns about it.

The article:

The Hubbert peak theory, also known as "peak oil", concerns the long-term rate of conventional petroleum and other fossil fuel extraction and depletion. It is named after American geophysicist Marion King Hubbert, who created a model of known reserves, and proposed, in 1956, in a paper he presented [1] at a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute, that oil production in the continental United States would peak between 1965 and 1970; and that world production would peak in 2000.

Of course the peak is now predicted for 2020, after which oil production will slowly decline for 100 years. And yet, I read regularly on Xinhuanet that the Chinese government is finding more oil every year. They already have the Number 6 largest single field in the world, in the Northeast of the country, Daqing Field. Most of the rest of the top 20 are in Saudi or Bahrain and the like.

For instance, CNOOC is towing and installing a very large platform to a spot 100 miles from Beijing, in the Bohai Sea, this month.

I also checked something out: Abiotic Oil Theory, the theory that oil was created by carbon and hydrogen in the earth's crust, without any contribution from biosources. I talked it over with my mom, and we thought it was funny, and interesting, and then of course one realizes that the whole theory was based on the fact that scientists in the 1950s were'nt really sure if Saturn and Jupiter and the rest weren't made of methane gas and ammonia and hydrogen. Well, it turns out that Saturn is 99% hydrogen, so we were able to release that theory from serious consideration. There is a field (or big well, actually) in the Louisiana Gulf that has started producing oil at 20 times its rate of a few years ago, but I think that is a red herring, or Maguffin.

In driving cross country, taking the bus, and living in Southern California, one is always amazed at how very many oil wells there are. I lived from 1962 to 1989 on the East Coast and saw nary a one. It is very confidence inspiring to see an oil well, even one that has stopped. One notices that some are really moving and that some are hardly moving at all. As far as LA is concerned, I think the last well in the city ceased production around 1990, not sure of the year.

Ta.

Mr Accountable said...

and in rereading...

Can one imagine how exicting it would be if oil were discovered off of Long Island or New Jersey? If Atlantic City became an oil town? It happened in Scotland and Norway.

Norway is the biggest one. I will research the figures. Its a very positive situation there vis a vis the Per Capita Foreign Reserves numbers, I think it is currently US$30 billion, for a 4 million person country. Compare with Japan, which has I think around US$280 billion stored, or 9x, for 160m, or 40x people. I must check these numbers.

Mr Accountable said...

and,

Just reading the tp comment, it is actually going to be something to read about, how India, China, Southeast Asia will be at the market bargaining for this oil as the years unwind and their intake keeps rising so healthily.

There will be a lot of bidding, for oil, that could involve investing in the Mideast. Japan, I read today, seems to be way ahead of us in this department. East Asia and the Mideast have the Silk Road tradition, which might be very important in the years to come. The Silk Road ran from Nigeria, through the Levant and Mesopotamia, all the way to Hokkaido.

Compare the Silk Road economic connection to the obvious connection between the US and Europe. And, add to that the fact that the syllabary languages and alphabets of Asia have a lot of Arabic incorporated into them, as an influence, again from the millenia of Silk Road activity.

It could get to be like a competition, like if the Filene's sale were to continue for 100 years, instead of just being a one-day sale. Those historical connections will become very important, and it is incumbent on the US to start making some good connections there, so we don't have to worry about this.

Elizabeth Branford said...

McTrixie those are long comments.


Spooky, what does enrgy policy really have to do with giving away cheese to poor people? You know the cheese issue is a subsidy and to unload it, it is given as surplus. This dilutes your point.

You are saying that Big Government is a must for reducing oil dependency? Why? Who said that? CAFE standards are an industry matter.
You can say thats "intrusive" but we require a car to have a seatbelt don't we? And while we are concerned about kids going through the windshield, we might also be concerned about kids trying to breathe and w world with irrepairable damage.

Are you honestly making the reduction of oil use a "political" hippie issue? Yet another issue to accuse the hippies of wanting "big government"? Serious?

No Blood for Hubris said...

Hey, the Greeks used to have kings sacrifice their daughters, didn't they? Can't we go back to more conservative, traditional proven methods?

douglass said...

Mctrixie, I've picked up on your tactical use of mysticism.

You employed:

1) The myth of exponentially continuous technological progress ( in your case, progress in the field of solar energy).

2) The myth that greed determines the actions of oil company shareholders.

You tie these together as to say that oil companies will switch to solar power because solar power will be more efficient in the future (myth) and that oil companies will switch to this newly efficient medium because they are greedy (myth).

Mctrixie, feel free to tear me a new one by demonstrating how you are correct here, just don't do it with mythology.

GraemeAnfinson said...

i think everyone should be forced to ride unicycles everywhere they go

Elizabeth Branford said...

Another myth: that continuing to do what we have been doing will work. How about alternative energy because we will not have a choice? How about as prices soar as supply decreases, the market compels us to trun to renewables?

The oil companies are not going to stop drilling the world dry because of concern for the environment. The consumers are not going to stop their misguided behaviors because they are concerned about the environment either.

We know these MYTHS can be laid to rest. The question is when we transition to alternative power, not "if" and whether we start to transition sooner rather than later.

Tear you a new one? That doesn't seem necessary. Debating peak oil is like the debate for years on whether or not smoking causes cancer. Sure, there were those that said it can't be linked beyond doubt just as there are still people today that question global warming. But just as the cancer myth was funded by big tobacco, Exxon Mobil funds the research to debunk global warming. We can claim the earth is flat and feel smug too- but the facts are the facts and the remedy is not debatable.
Arguing about blame, free markets, price gouging, etc. does not change the fact that decreased supply will lead to increases in prices. And people will be forced to reckon with that irrespective of their mythology.

Kathleen Callon said...

Lew,
Great post.

Today a caller to a local radio station proposed something I hadn't heard before, but makes lots of sense. She said that the reason prices can be so high is partly because gasoline isn't handled as a utility, like electricity or water or septic. We were raped by energy companies in California a few years back (Thanks, Ken Lay, hope you rot in a cell with a cellmate who loves your ass... no pun intended.) so this isn't a perfect solution, but it would be a start.

Lily said...

I'm not sure if it can be handled as a utility though, its a bit more complicated and we do not have control over other countries, etc. Maybe if we had more of our own supply...not sure about that.

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