In Which We Attempt To Explain Energy Crisis II: The Wrath Of Oil!


Because I feel the need to speak my mind.

I have been hearing a lot of people complaining about gas prices. Here in the Midwest they are pushing toward $2.00 a gallon, with reports that they may reach $3.00 a gallon by summer. My first question is, How do they know that? Did someone call up the gas companies and say, "Hey, how much are you going to gouge us for this summer?"

Do gas companies employ Miss Cleo as their price analyst? "Yes, in June they will drop slightly, but a skirmish between Israel and Syria will cause some refineries to go off-line, causing shortages that will drive prices even higher. By August, oil will be seeing a tall, dark, handsome man and going on a long trip."

As with most things, everyone involved in this little issue is annoying the hell out of me, and I would like to cut through all the corporate crap, political pandering and public misperception and find the truth. Don't know if we can, but why not try, at least?

First off, the oil companies are a bunch of lying, opportunistic weasels who don't seem to give a royal rat's ass about how their heavy handed and manipulative actions are causing problems for the rest of the America. Which shouldn't surprise us in the least. The whole idea of a "good Corporate Citizen" is a lot like the idea of a "Benign Crack Dealer." They both trade in extracting the most money from the most people and don't much care if the customer gets hurt, or the area around them gets trashed, as long as they make more money than they did at this time last year. British Petrol announced 1st quarter profits of $4 Billion, their highest ever. They actually had the gall to say that their high profits didn't come from higher prices on gas, but from advances in technology and keeping less inventory. Why didn't they just come right out and say, "We think you are all a bunch of moronic losers who will accept bald faced lies with no complaining. And even if you don't believe us, what are you going to do about it, jerkwad?" In other words, business as usual.

The oil companies felt the need, last summer, to flex their muscles, something they haven't done in years. Yes, OPEC said they were cutting production, but does that mean that after they announce it, gas stations all over the country had to raise prices the next DAY because the gas in their storage units had just cost them more than it did the night before? No. They finally had an excuse to raise prices as high as they could just to see if people would pay them.

And we did. Which is our fault. But more about that later.

I may not be an economist, but I know how things work on a smaller level, and can extrapolate them to a grander scale. Besides, economists were the ones who said we would never get rid of inflation under Clinton, that the stock market would hit 36,000 by 2002, and that investing in the internet was a brilliant idea, so maybe we shouldn't put a who lot of credence in what they say anyway. If gas costs more, it costs more to get things to the stores, since they are shipped there by trucks.

Which use gas.

If it gets cold, it costs more to heat houses, warehouses, offices and the like, since we use heating oil and natural gas for a lot of it.

People still have to drive to work and get to those stores, so they have to pay more for gas.

So, if the price of oil goes up, that causes things to cost more (since you have to pay for that transportation), businesses to spend more (causing lower profits) and people to spend more on gas than say, a new palm pilot and cell phone. That means money is sucked out of the economy and the things people do buy cost more. Hmm...that sounds like a nice way to slow things down to me.

If you can't afford your heat bill, are you going to get a vacation to Jamaica and a new computer, or are you going to sit in a cold house after your purchases? Not really much of a choice there for most people.

So, our booming economy, based on us buying crap we don't need, grinds to a halt. Funny how that happened during the summer of an election between an environmentalist who's only real asset is a good economy and a former oilman who was campaigning on the premise that things is going to get bad, isn't it?

Now, the oil companies are telling us that the reason for the high prices is that supplies are limited. Maybe. But I remember being a kid in the 70's, the last time gas prices were the main focus of our lives, and then, supplies were limited and you could feel it. Whether for real, or through market manipulation, there were shortages. Gas stations had lines, rationing measures were in effect and there was a palpable sense that we were running out of oil, with projections flying that it would be all gone by the end of the 1980's. Well, by the end of the 1980's we were awash in oil, and the countries that supplied it to us had cut their prices so much we kind of forgot about drilling here.

I just can only come to one conclusion. We're being bent over and taken advantage of by Shell, Mobil, SuperAmerica and Amoco. A study by the government showed no evidence of price gouging last summer, even though gas was almost 50% more expensive in some parts of the country than others...and I'd be tempted to believe that, if I also didn't read on that oil companies gave $64,632,428 in campaign contributions to our stalwart members of Congress who ran that investigation. You know what, for 10% of $64.6 million, *I* wouldn't see any evidence of price fixing either. I wouldn't see much of anything but the inside of a Guinness vat or a brothel with that much money, if you want the truth.

The second group of people who piss me off in the gas price war are the American people. That's right, the common man who is getting hurt by high prices. It's their fault as well. Now, I can feel you staring at me with mouths agape, brain churning and arguments forming in your head, but hear me out, I have good reasons to blame you.

First, the thought that cheap gas is a right is about as rational as turning to the Sci Fi Channel for decent entertainment and should have never become part of our culture. We have pretty much based our entire culture on this limited resource. We use it for all of our transportation, much of our heating, and a lot of our manufacturing. When you depend that much on one thing, it's only a matter of time before that gets figured out, and the people who control it decide to pull on the leash a bit, especially when they have learned they can make insane amounts of money doing so. But we blindly went along, ignoring the past problems with it and feeling that since we won the Gulf War, cheap oil was our birthright.

This has led to more problems that our President of Very Little Brain seems to be able to grasp. We are pouring so much CO2 into the air with our cars, trucks and SUVs that last summer a hole in the ice at the North Pole showed up. Think about that for a second. Now, if you still need proof of global warming, you're prolly waiting for the Catholic Church to take back it's pardon of Galileo.

The atmosphere is losing the ability to clean itself, and our weather is getting more and more chaotic because we feel the need to drive houses to get to the grocery store. Our solution to transportation has never been to find better, cheaper, and more intelligent ways to get where we want to go, but to build more roads, bigger cars and trucks, and figure that someday, someone will solve the problem. Why should we do it? We're too busy because we left for work 20 minutes late, and besides, someone else will take care of it, right?

We've had 30 years to start working on different energy sources, but we'd rather get our gas at $1 a gallon and say that people who want to use solar, wind or some other kind of energy are insane.

Think about that for a minute.

The wind and the sun are free, no one can control them. You don't have to ship their energy in tankers. Using them for energy production is "kooky and nuts". Things that ARE owned by major corporations and have to be shipped. When the things shipping them break, large areas of land or sea are destroyed for years and things die, including people. THAT'S considered the sane choice.

Brilliant thought process there.

Need more proof that advertising and marketing can make people do insanely stupid things?

I blame you.

You also have taken to driving monster trucks on the road, laughing about how they can hold 30 gallons of gas at a time, but forgetting that they need to, since it takes that much to drive across town, to the mall and to work twice. I notice that all people who laughed at my Geo Metro are now glaring at me when I pay less than $10 to fill my tank even now, and I only buy gas once a week. You watch car races that burn ungodly amount of gas and have made that the #1 spectator sport in America. You haven't even thought about a different way to heat your house, but sure complained a lot when gas and electric and heating oil were priced like pot outside a Phish show.

The last time gas shot up in price and people were spending more and more of the income on it (which was the recession that basically lasted from the mid 70's to the early 80's), people started buying smaller foreign cars. This led to more money going overseas, car companies here needing loans from the government before they figured out how to make smaller, more efficient cars. Which they did until we were convinced by tons of advertising that we are all rugged outdoorsmen and need vehicles that can climb mountains, be used as campers, or drive through pounding blizzards in remote areas. Which is bullshit.

The vast majority of people in the US live where the harshest conditions they will have to endure is waiting an hour or two for the snow plow to go by, but if, for some reason, the local government wants to get a lot of angry phone calls and eventually be voted from office by not plowing the roads, by God people are ready with their off-road vehicles and houses on wheels.

No, you prefer to have the oil monkey on your back, staring at the dollars fade away at the gas pump like . waiting in a filthy alley for his next career killing appointment with a pusher. Just like a junkie, you bitch about the price, but don't do anything to kick your habit. You know it's bad for your children and their children, but to hell with them, just give you your my fix of fuel injected, CO2 producing convenience, and we'll worry about breathing and skin cancer when they show up.

And the final, and most important reason I blame you is that you elected two former oil men who got the aforementioned $60 million plus the convince you that they were the best choice to run the ecology and economy. I know Bush used to be on booze and coke, but what the hell were you smoking? Tailpipe fumes?

Of COURSE Dick Cheney is going to give a speech saying that conservation is a bad idea, and the solution is more oil drilling and more power plants that run on fossil fuels and nuclear power. He's got to make sure that he's taken care of in his old age, and heart attacks aren't cheap. As long as they two oilmen run the country, and they keep appointing oil executives to their "solution committees", like the energy committee that Cheney ran behind closed doors, oil will be what this country runs on. It will cost more and more, until they have squeezed as much blood as they can from us. Then, they will need to drop the prices to get the economy going, and get elected again so they can raise gas prices for four more years.

The solution?

That's why you read a droning, isn't it?

For one of Cory's solutions that sounds crazy, but like Fonzie jumping the shark to save Arnold's Diner, it just might work.

Sorry. No easy fix. We've given the keys to the country to people who like to drive fast and burn our money as fuel. They seem oblivious to the facts, preferring instead to offer bizarre solutions that you are accepting without blinking. Drilling for oil in a nature preserve in Alaska will solve California's problems? A tax cut over 11 years will help with gas prices? If a co-worker told you those were solutions, you'd have him taken out wrapped in a straightjacket, but when it's the "President", we nod and agree and continue to take the money made by the hours of our day and give it to oil companies without a second thought.

Besides, we've known the solutions for a long time, we're just too lazy to start research into using something else to make our cars go and our houses warm. So please, Mr. Pusher Man, give me some pure unleaded...I need a fix and rehab is too much work.

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