by Stephen P. Pizzo
Hey, did you hear? We Americans "deserve" something. Apparently we "deserve relief from high gas and oil prices.
At least that's what a person would figure if they read, listen or watch the news. The papers and airwaves are filled with politicians, in both parties, huffing and puffing and promising Americans they are going to find out who's behind high gas prices and make them stop doing whatever it is they are doing.
Just who those perps might be depends on the politician who is organizing the posse. Right wingers blame environmentalists for blocking drilling in Alaska and offshore. Left wingers blame the oil companies. And both sides flail at OPEC and shadowy "speculators" on Wall Street.
And we buy it — or at least we buy whichever straw-men that fit our own political bias and get us, personally, off the hook.
Talk about a case of national denial! Poor babies. All those evil people picking on us innocent Americans. Jeeze, all we've been doing is what Americans have been doing since the end of World War II — living it up bingeing on finite world resources we figured we had first dibs on anyway.
What a pack of whiners we are. (And if any of what follows applies to you, and you're offended, good.)
Relief? You demand relief, do you? Well:
- Does that little lady, whose head only barely clears the steering wheel of her Ford Expedition, "deserve" relief from high gas prices? Does she? She claims she bought the damn thing because it makes her and the two 60-pound kids "feel safe." What a crock. It doesn't make her feel safe, it makes her feel powerful — a rush staring down on those who surrounding her on the road. So SUV gals don't deserve relief. They deserve a swift, unceremonious kick in the ass.
- How about hubby? You know the type, Mr. Macho who lives in well-paved suburbia, but who just had buy a giant 4-wheel drive pick-em-up truck, even thought the biggest thing he carries every week is a 25-bag of dog food. Does Mr. Macho "deserve" relief? I don't think so. They not only have to have a giant engine, but weigh these behemoths down even more with flood lights and chrome. Then they have drive a hundred miles just to find some rutted dirt road where they can get the essential ingredient — macho-mud — on their truck. What these guys deserve is just what they're getting right now... a vehicle that sucks $4.50 gas even when parked.
And what about all those baby boomers who just had to buy a
4000-square foot home now that the kids are gone. Do they "deserve"
lower heating and cooling bills? After all, keeping that hot tub
piping hot 24 by 365 can really run up the old utility bill.
Then there's those of us with the shopping skills of 8-year olds. We seem unable to separate product from packaging. We fall for all the shopping aisle glitz of purely cosmetic plastic (oil-based) product packages. Was it the New Math that somehow put the notion into our heads that a fancy 24-oz plastic package that actually only contains 16-ounces of product actually contains more than that? Do such Pavlovian shoppers really "deserve" lower supermarket prices — our a dope slap to the back of the head?
Do those who turn their noses up at locally grown/produced products, in favor of the same stuff that had to be shipped, flown and driven from halfway round the earth, "deserve" lower prices?
You get the point. The average American consumes 25-gallons of petroleum/petroleum based products per day — times 300 million Americans .All this mindless, selfish, thoughtless, self-indulgent wasteful behavior is a part — a big part — of why energy prices have spiked and will spike higher. And none of the BS being shoved at us by politicians, the media and industry is going to change that. Because there is no "relief" from the kind of stupidity I just describe. In fact, unlike oil, stupidity is apparently in endless supply — in Washington, on Wall Street and on your street and mine.
But hey, it's not our fault that all of a sudden oil has jumped from $21 a barrel eight years ago to $135 a barrel today, and rising. And it also apparently has nothing to do with whatever it was Dick Cheney and those oil executives (he still refuses to identify) decided back in 2001.
It's not us. It's those damn "speculators." They're terrible people — capitalists, I hear. They're the kind of folks who study and track market-based trends with exotic names like "supply" and "demand." Then they put their money where their mouths are, betting prices will rise or fall in the future. These days their computer models scream two facts: that we Americans will stubbornly cling to our wasteful ways, and that, this time around, 2 billion folks in China and India are doing their very best emulate our bad example.
Then there's those nasty old oil companies. Bastards! They treat us like we're a bunch of crack addicts — which of course is precisely what we've willingly and enthusiastically become. Big Oil took a page from Big Tobacco's marketing playbook; get them hooked with cheap product, then jack up the price. Now that we're hooked on oil, and their customer base is growing overseas as well, Big Oil jacked up the price of our daily fix. How dare they! We deserve lower prices so we don't have to take the cure. Right?
What about our leaders? Well, they agree — you and I are blameless. Instead we are victims of a vast-something-wing conspiracy, of some sort or another. And right at the top of the list of victims are our leaders themselves. Just ask any member of congress or the administration if they share any of the blame. No way Jose! In fact, they see themselves as the ultimate victims of our latest energy crisis. Since we voters can't get our hands on Big Oil executives or those slippery "speculators," we turn our wrath on our elected officials.
And when we yell at them they panic and make shit up to shut us up.
First they reassure us that we do indeed "deserve" relief from high energy prices and, by golly their on it. They each have their party's talking points and all kinds of reassuring — nonsensical — "solutions."
They're going to bust open those offshore reserves that the tree-huggers have kept off limits to drilling.
If only they could get their hands on more offshore leases and drill there we'd be in clover again. If that idea appeals to you and makes you want to hang onto that Ford Suburban you might want to check the facts:
- Fact: 44 million acres of ocean are already leased for oil drilling without adding more areas.
- Fact: some 10,000 drilling permits have already been issued, but are just being sat on by the oil companies that hold them.
- Fact: the former Naval Oil Reserve in Alaska is open for drilling, has been drilled, but the wells are capped.
It seems that oil companies are the real speculators. As long as
future oil prices are projected to be higher than current prices they
have no incentive to sell cheap now when they can sell dear later by
just keeping these reserves off the market.
What will oil companies do with new offshore leases if granted? Duh.
And, should they begin the offshore drilling today, it would still take between 7 and ten years before the first drop of that oil hit a refinery.
Another "solution" being pushed is to expand the number of nuclear plants. They're gonna start plopping down new nuclear power plants like Jack In The Box franchises. Just don't ask where they're going to store all that new radioactive waste, because they haven't a clue.
Last week, Sen. John McCain dangled a $300-million carrot for anyone out there who can build a better battery. (That's $100-million less than we are spending every day on the war in Iraq, which McCain supports.)
Imagine if, five years ago, we'd spent the half the nearly $1 trillion we've wasted in Iraq on a Manhattan Project to develop clean, renewable energy. We'd not only already have that better battery but untold other oil-free energy spinoffs as well. That in turn would have actually lowered the price of gas and oil as oil producing countries scrambled to maintain market share.
But, of course we didn't. Instead McCain — and way too many Democrats — decided to secure America's oil future by making Iraq safe for Exxon and Shell. Instead all we did was make Iraq safe for Iran.
Anyway, that's how I feel. If you're driving an SUV (Suddenly Unwanted Vehicle) you deserve exactly what you're getting — a royal screwing at the pump.
Then there's those extraordinary morons who will surely fall for Chrysler and Jeep's new marketing gimmick — $2.99 a gallon gas for three years/36,000 miles — if you buy one of their gas guzzlers trucks or 4-wheelers. To them I say, go ahead, Gomer, buy one. No seriously, buy one. Just promise to give me a call in three years when that deal runs out. I want to watch you try to unload that albatross when gas is $7-a gallon. The skinning you'll have to take to sell or trade that beast in will more than wipe out whatever "saved" on gas.
As we approach the November elections many of you may have an opportunity to quiz the candidates on their views about all this. If any of them claims we "deserve" lower-priced oil and gas you can bet that candidate is not the candidate "of change." In such cases a hearty round of mocking and derisive hissing and booing is entirely appropriate. It's precisely what they deserve.
In the meantime I will find my solace at the gas pump. As I fill up our little red 2000 VW I enjoy watching the SUVers around me turn ashen with each click of the gas pump. Screw em. They deserve it.
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