Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oil's well that ends well

Don't you just hate bad puns? Especially quasi Shakespearean ones? Me too.

News flash: we're running out of oil. True or false? Answer: both true and false. Most of the easy oil has been extracted. That leaves the hard to get oil. There's apparently a lot of it--but it's called the "hard to get" oil for a reason. Harder to extract, harder to refine. Dirtier too. This means oil prices will inevitably rise, whether or not we're bombing the crap out of Libya. Throw in the typical future's market manipulations (don't complain, that's part of a "free market" too) and the outlook is $4, $5, $6, and more for a gallon of gas. For the record, all of those Republican pleas to "drill baby drill" were and are a sucker's bet. Alaska and everything in our coastal waters amount to just a tiny fraction of our projected needs, and the environmental hazards far outweigh any short term benefit.

Of course, there are a lot of things we could do. Raise the federal mpg standards right away and the tax the hell out of every new car that doesn't surpass them. Also put a higher tax on horse power, engine displacement and vehicle weight. Begin a nation wide push for recharging stations for electric cars. Maybe take some money away from the Defense Department to fund them. Some form of graduated tax on gasoline usage could be a way to encourage reduced consumption. In the long run, we need to de-emphasize cars and re-emphasize mass transit. Build high speed rail between all major US cities. Build light rail systems in every major city and expand the ones that are already in place. Allocate major federal funding for alternative fuel sources R&D. OK, ethanol was a dead end; maybe algae won't be. Believe it or not, there are still some very smart people in the US and someone in a lab somewhere will eventually find a solution--if they have proper funding and encouragement.

What will we do? Probably nothing. The oil company tail has been wagging this dog for longer than anyone can remember and despite those ubiquitous "we're all in this together" happy face TV ads they've been running since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, they have no desire to change. Not until every last drop of crude has been sucked from the earth or squeezed from the shale and tar sands.

One final thought: Why is it that the people who proudly call themselves "conservatives" are the last people who want to conserve?

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