3.08.2011

Stop bitching about gas prices!

"We don't want to be totally reactive so that when the price goes up, everybody panics, and when it goes back down, everybody goes back to sleep."

Amen! These wise words from Secretary of Energy Steven Chu came in response to the Obama administration’s mulling over “tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to rapidly rising prices due to the turmoil in the Middle East.”

GOP leaders, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (LINK), are brazenly opportunistic and ignorantly oversimplify when they blame the current rise in gasoline prices on President Barack Obama. They are appealing to The Sleeping American – persons who are ignorant of recent history - and to young people who depend on a minimum wage, to old folks getting by on Social Security and to the unemployed who currently have no wages.

Wanna bet the old folks get it?

So, let’s call this a Crash Course for the Unenlightened.

CAUSES OF OIL-PRICE HIKES

First, I don’t drive because of vision problems, but I’ve got enough sense to know the rise in gasoline prices affects all prices and that this is not just a U.S. problem – it will affect economies worldwide. Oil prices are unstable, and there are many causes of hikes, including “sudden, unexpected political volatility,” “excessive speculation in the commodities market” and climate disasters such as Hurricane Katrina (LINK). Persons unwilling to grasp these causes, while bitching about their pocketbooks, can accept the more succinct Republican version: “Obama did it!”

LOOK IN THE MIRROR

Readers know I have always been quick to point out consumer responsibility, whether it’s in an energy crunch or the current sport of corporation-bashing.

The United States holds 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, but uses one-quarter of the world's oil production. Aside from the fact that this makes the Republican cry of “drill, baby, drill” absurd, it also means we are downright greedy.

Americans are no longer willing to make sacrifices when our nation is in trouble – sacrifices like cutting back and planning ahead to reduce personal consumption of energy. Why car pool or use public transportation? Why make one monthly trip for shopping instead of running here and there daily? Why turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater? Why reduce Interstate speed limits?

Our current economic crunch might just be the catalyst to force Americans - finally - to think about their energy consumption and the need for alternative sources of energy. God knows, we’ve had enough time to prepare.

THE TOCSIN

The tocsin came in 1973, then again in the summer of 1979, when 79-cents-a-gallon gasoline soared over the dollar-mark at the pumps. Little did we know. And, little, it seems, do people remember the history of periodic spikes in oil prices.

In 1973, the Arab nations in OPEC – Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and pronounced OH-pec - joined by Syria, Tunisia and Egypt, got ticked off at the United States for providing supplies to Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The Arab nations of OPEC formed a subgroup and retaliated by imposing an oil embargo on the United States and Western Europe.

That should have been the day the United States began a “Manhattan Project” effort to develop alternative energy sources. But as soon as the crises was over, Americans went back to sleep.

We had a second chance for action in 1979 when the deposing of the Shah of Iran created a second energy crisis in one decade.

THE PHALANX

So, we’ve had 38 years to fix the problem and to free ourselves from what President George W. Bush called our addiction to oil. Yet, every attempt by Democrats to introduce sensible energy policies has been met by a phalanx of oil-industry funds and Congressional front men, who, unhappily, convince Republican voters that this is just some anti-American, socialistic, tree-hugging idiocy on the part of their political opponents.

In other words, “Obama did it!”

HEAR ME

I recently read a quote from a battered woman accused of murder in the death of her husband: “If I’d killed him when I met him, I’d be out of prison by now.” There’s a missed-opportunity principle somewhere in that tragic statement which could apply to our dependency on foreign oil.

So, stop your bitching about the high price of gasoline. Stop paying attention to propaganda and to politicians fueled by big-oil money. Start supporting energy policies which will release America from the whims of outside forces.

Or, just blame it on Obama and go back to sleep.

***

I highly recommend:

“Energy: Rising Gas Prices,” THE PROGRESS REPORT, Center for American Progress, 7 March 2011 (LINK).

For historical perspective:

OPEC

THE 1973 OIL CRISIS

THE 1979 ENERGY CRISIS

And ...

Pay close attention to developments in Saudi Arabia, which produces one-fifth of the planet’s oil.

13 comments:

tnlib said...

Beautifully stated. I'm afraid I don't have much hope that we will wake up and smell the coffee. As a society, we are too selfish to make sacrifices of any kind. And add to that pile a good dose of ignorance. People will continue to drive their gas guzzling SUVs, Vans and trucks while bitching about the price of oil. People will continue to consume anything and everything simply beacause they "want" it and it is their right until there is nothing left.
When they wake up and realize that there is nothing, they will blame it on Obama.

Jerry Critter said...

We will have Big Gas prices as long as Big Oil has a place at the table.

Murr Brewster said...

Our two-hundred-year binge on fossil fuel will soon be coming to an end, unfortunately way too late. The consequences will be around for centuries upon centuries. Don't know if we will.

When gas prices were above $4/gallon--was it only three years ago?--I saw consumption patterns change among my fiercely bitching coworkers. Then, of course, they changed back. We have all the foresight of a labrador retriever at dinnertime.

Lynn said...

No, I don't think it sounds too angry. I think you made some very valid points. I've wondered for years why we don't cut our consumption AND develop alternative energy sources, but then I'm the queen of going green, recycling, etc.
However, I do have to point out that when gas prices rose during W's administration, it was always his fault (and maybe it was). This is just politics - a nasty game that enters into everything. We would have lower prescription drug prices if the big drug companies didn't control congress (as an example that I'm sure you know).
Of course Haley is jumping on this bandwagon; that's the way the game is played. What he's not saying to the country is how he's bringing all sorts of alternative energy projects to Miss. There are lots of experiments being done with animal waste (chicken litter, etc.), corn and timber byproducts along with ethanol. I know about them only because I've written about some of them for the Miss. Business Journal.
So I don't pay much attention to politics anymore. I don't like either side.

Sorry, I didn't mean to preach you a sermon that I'm sure you don't need. Your concern and passion show through in this piece but it sounds good to me. :)
Have a great day.

BBJ said...

This piece is right on the money, and I thank you and those who comment for helping me sort through issues like this. I admire you all, especially you, BJ.

Frodo, of Toad Hall, said...

The USPS, the US Army, and other affiliated entities even sponsor gas-guzzlers in the name of NASCAR. We have never taken the problem seriously, and we won't until economic Armaggedon stares us in the balanced budget countenance we all seem to wear these days. Frodo still believes that we're all waiting for a car that tuns on bullshit. Absent that, we're screwed.

Ahab said...

It frustrates me that the developed world has had the time and technology to transition away from a petroleum-based economy, but has failed to do so. Countless political, economic, and environmental problems could be transcended this way, but I doubt it will occur soon.

Tiny said...

BJ, another excellent lesson for everyone to learn.

Tiny disagrees with Frodo that it will be a car that runs on bullshit. It will be the type she grew up with, which is recyclable and on par with the Amish communities. It will be horse shit, recycled on fields and gardens!

PVNY said...

Yep, hopeless. Yep, you have to be 68 years old to realize, HOPELESS!!!! Don't waste your time!!! Ho-mo-SAP-i-ens never change, Neanderthal realized this & JUST GAVE UP!!

Shaw Kenawe said...

Great post about a problem that's been around for decades and which the American people refuse to address.

I don't have a car here in the city, preferring to use my legs and public transporatation to get where I need to go.

Instead of investing in higher mileage cars, the auto industry wasted decades by investing in behemoths like the Humvee and SUV gas guzzlers. We'll never learn. We're lazy and easily distracted. Once the prices go down and stabilize, the problem's over. Right?

Shari said...

I finally had five seconds - read the blog - good points all, and while I am not Obama's biggest fan, I can assure you that I do not blame him in any way for the price of gas. I don't see how people can logically come to that conclusion, but they do, like you say.

Ms. Henny Red said...

I've been grumbling about the price of gas every time I fill up my tank so I thank you for putting some clear perspective on why we're in this current mess. I didn't blame the gas price mess on Obama but I had failed to think through all the factors including our over dependence on oil and how long we've had to address that dependence and why we've failed to do so.

Father Tim Farrell said...

We will pay three dollars for a Starbucks coffee and then complain about over three dollars a gallon on gasoline. We not only sleep through the reality of where we are, we daydream when we are awake. We are so much like spoiled children who don't care how much mommy and daddy have to work to get us what we want, WE JUST WANT IT AND WE WANT IT NOW. And if we don't get it NOW, we scream and start blaming everyone but ourselves. Great piece! This is the hour to awaken from our deep sleep. This is the hour to stop whining and complaining. This is the hour to realize that we have to stop this dependency on oil. Or one day we'll wake up to a very cruel reality: that our great nation wasted its greatness and potential like any spoiled child would and never faced the fact that we can and should do better. . . and didn't. And then it might be too late.