"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 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.
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!”
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:
THE 1973 OIL CRISIS
THE 1979 ENERGY CRISIS
Pay close attention to developments in Saudi Arabia, which produces one-fifth of the planet’s oil.