Thursday, July 31, 2008

Price of Gas

...By all rights, there should be a serious tirade or even a minor rant here about the price of gas, but I just can't seem to manage one. How about at least getting a bit snarky about it?

Price of Gas
Aren't you angry about the price of gas? I think that we're taking it on the chin in a pretty stoic manner, don't you? What will it take to get us really ticked off in a major way? I get the feeling that people are voting with their feet by staying at home this summer. In huge numbers. There are reports that travel is down not only at airports and hotels, but also on the highway for both short and longer road trips. Instead of big public protests, they're just quietly not traveling by air or car as much as before the price of gas went into the stratosphere.

The other night someone stole almost an entire tank of gas from my car, so I got a locking gas cap. That certainly pissed me off; it made me wonder if it was a teenager, or someone who just couldn't afford gas to get to work. It made me more aware that times are getting tougher, even in our very safe middle class neighborhood. I don't know about your neighborhood, but we pay around $4.13 per gallon around here (late July of 2008) and for the first time I paid almost $50.00 to fill up the tank on my little Subaru Forester. I like leaving my car at home now. It is now an act of rebelliousness to avoid your car, and maybe even a radical political act.

Wall Street Oil Speculators & Price of Gas

Our friends in Saudi Arabia say that the high price of gas has to do with our own home-grown speculators on Wall Street. David Cho wrote an interesting article about it in the Washington Post, "Investors' Growing Appetite for Oil Evades Market Limits, Trading Loophole for Wall Street Speculators is Driving Up Prices, Critics Say." National Public Radio caught wind of it and interviewed him with their own headline which read, "Oil Speculation Driving Up Prices?" It is worth a listen if you're concerned about the high price of gas. Not to be outdone, CNN Money ran their own article, "Oil speculation: What Congress wants." What the heck are we to make of all this? A consortium of Airline executives are lobbying for a stop to oil speculation at their SOSNOW Stop Oil Speculation Now site. I couldn't find any definitive answers and all of the above just opened a bunch of new questions. What is the stance of your political candidates on all this stuff? For me, it opened up a broader set of questions that has to do with the ownership of natural resources, such as our own petroleum.

What? Our Oil Belongs to the People?
Why is it that the price of gas is only 12 cents per gallon in Venezuela (the lowest in the world right now)? The easy answer is that the Venezuelan government owns the fuel companies and the price of fuel is kept low to benefit the people. Shouldn't the people ultimately own the country's resources anyway, as opposed to giant corporations that make obscene profits at the expense of the people? This sentiment may seem to be a bit naive or even (shudder) radical until you see that a big oil state in America has already carried out an innovative plan to share the oil wealth with the people, and it has been distributing its oil profits to the people for over 20 years.

Alaska has a revenue sharing law in which the oil revenues to the state are invested in a permanent investment fund (among other things) and its profits distributed to the people in the form of annual dividends. That's a corporate model, isn't it, and neatly avoids the ungodly Commie thing? Why not hold our American corporations to the Alaska standard and hold on to the philosophy that the resources are the property of its citizens and to gouge them for the price of their resources is wrong? Is this radical? It is interesting to note that the Alaska revenue sharing law with a permanent dividend fund was initiated by conservative Republicans and not liberal Democrats.

Stand Back, Tirade Coming Through!/Outright Price Gouging

By all rights, there should be a serious tirade or even a minor rant here about the price of gas, but I just can't seem to manage one. How about at least getting a bit snarky about it? Is this being defeatist? I can't figure it out. In the meantime, I'm not flying or driving much either.

There are many solutions to our energy problems on the drawing boards to help turn the tide on the bad stuff, we just need to get them up and running without dragging our feet. One of the things we learned is that there are lots of roadblocks to developing green companies, and lots of powerful people are exceptionally fierce in their stance about not changing our energy practices or national policies. Can you spell GREED?

Speaking of outright price gouging, have you noticed that when the price of a barrel of oil goes up, all the gas stations instantly raise all of their prices? I noticed that a lot of the gas stations raised their prices within hours of the price increases. On the other hand, when the price of a barrel of oil goes down, it takes them days and even weeks to lower their prices at the pump. Hey, what gives you greedy bastards? This is an adoring term for our friends who screw us at the gas stations by the way. Be sure to use it whenever you pay for your gas, as in, Here is the money for the gas, you bastard. Deliver it with an affectionately sweet and sincere smile (make sure it is the owner and not an employee though). I say we throw all the gas station owners' asses in jail for a few years. This is downright stealing from people when they're already down and having a rough time of it.

Hmm. Here's a fun fact. What is the most expensive consumer liquid per gallon? Give up? Inkjet ink, by a long shot. My Epson stuff is around $85. per 220 ml, which equals around $380. per liter (x 4.5), or around $1,400. per gallon (x 3.78).

Exxon's Record Profits
The New York Times published the article, "Exxon's Second-Quarter Earnings Set a Record." It is an interesting read, given our tough economic times. “Inside the boardrooms at the major oil companies, it’s Christmas in July,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, of New York. “What’s shocking is that Big Oil is plowing these profits into stock buybacks instead of increasing production or investing in alternative energy.”

I would add that Hurricane Katrina showed us that America's oil production plants along the Texas gulf coast are vulnerable to hurricanes, and the big oil companies have done little to change this status, even with their record profits. The brunt of Katrina missed the refineries in Houston, and even at that, it affected the availability of gas for consumers and prices jumped by 50% in some areas. If Houston is hit by a hurricane and it debilitates the refineries clustered there, we could be paying $6.00 per gallon of gas if it would be even available. What a nice prospect. Lets give all the gas companies a big thank you for decentralizing the refineries away from hurricane danger while they are awash in billions of dollars in profits.

Electric Cars & Alternative Fuels
It seems like electric cars are a good place to start, especially if you have wind and solar energy to power them. This effectively makes them have a nearly zero carbon footprint and simultaneously cuts us off from the evils of fossil fuels and the high price of gas.

The only problem is that electric cars are too expensive right now for the everyday consumer to be viable. We need to change that and put an electric car on the market that is priced under $20,000.00! This would change the entire vehicle landscape nearly overnight and people would be giving up their gas cars by the millions. Do you hear this General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, and all you other car manufacturers? Your days are numbered for fossil fuel cars, and if you were smart, you'd have had your research and development people already on it for more than a decade. I get the feeling that the automobile manufacturers don't want to give up their gas powered cars. Maybe this means that some other manufacturer needs to step in where they failed, because whoever does it stands to be the next great industrialist of the world, especially if they can make the electric cars inexpensive for the masses. If it is an elitist expensive car only for the wealthy, it won't work, we won't change anything.

Israel is the first country to push for electric cars for the masses and to make them non-elitist. If they can do it, why not us? We're smart, right?

Whenever I see commercials on TV for new cars, I get quite disgusted because the car companies are trying to convey a sense of elitism with sexy, sleek and expensive cars that are supposedly high performance state of the art vehicles. The only thing wrong with all of these expensive idiot cars is that they run on fossil fuels and fuck up our environment, just like the ugly old bomb of a car from the 1960's. So what if they're computerized and have the best leather seats? The underlying premise is still killing us with the carbon dioxide and fossil fuels. Morons. Don't buy them. As a mater of fact, park your car and start bicycling, man.

Some things, like jets obviously won't run on solar or electric engines, so we'll still need some kind of combustible fuel to fly them. How do we make jets go green with no carbon dioxide emissions? Is this possible? I sure like flying and am having a hard time with this one.

My wife and I just invested in a green company that Develops renewable biofuels utilizing biomass resources such as organic wastes and energy crops. It has a number of patented solutions to many of our world's immediate challenges with not only getting high quality fuel, but by cleaning up the environment at the same time by using bio-wastes as a resource. It can offer a sustainable renewable energy. We'll see how it goes, but it seems that in these economic times it was less of a gamble than our traditional 401k investments.

What to Do?
In the meantime, I simply gave up my car for the most part and bicycle to work. See the previous post about Global Climate Change and the upcoming post on how to become a bicycle commuter. This was a challenge, but certainly not impossible.

Since this is obviously an election year, take your candidate to task and learn where they stand with how to deal with both the high price of gas and getting a cheap electric car on the road for the masses. Lots of the candidates have huge stacks of money from oil lobbyists. This is a no brainer. They don't give a rat's ass about you or the environment, and will be looking out for the oil interests instead. Vote accordingly. This goes for both Senators, Representatives to the House, and of course, the President.

If you're like me, feel free to go on a rant about the high price of gas and take your anger out on the politicians! Vote in a whole new crop and get those miserable f@cks out that helped get us in the mess we're in now. We don't have to be victims to the high price of gas! Remember, if you don't vote, you can't complain.

The previous post had lots of information on how to go about minimizing your own carbon footprint. What the heck, give it a spin, it may be fun. The next post on bicycle commuting was a real learning experience for me and I didn't realize the nuances involved. I thought you just hopped on any old bike and pumped like heck. Come back and check it out, it was fun to write. I'll get the draft polished off and posted early next week.

Part 2 of a Three Part Series

Part 1: Global Cimate Change & Bonehead Humans
Part 2: Price of Gas
Part 3: Bicycle Commuting


Anonymous said...

I am hopeful after watching a lot of Plug In electric car videos and also seeing Algae as a fuel that we are moving in the right direction. I agree, we need to get mad and change.

This video is very interesting...Here's the link:


Larry McNeil said...

Hello Tari,

Thanks for the link. Its really great. I found myself watching a bunch of the videos instead of just the one you pointed out. It is inspiring to see that so many intelligent people are on the forefront of trying to solve our collective energy challenges.

I still think we need to show how fed up we are with the price of gas when we vote this fall. I get the sense that the old way of doing things can't be sustained much longer.