Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What to Do About Energy

You can't turn on any newscast (or for that matter, engage in almost any conversation) these days without hearing about gas prices. Maybe I'm just a dumb yahoo, but it seems like what to do is a combination of common-sense ideas.

For starters, we can stop acting like this is all because of some evil plot or conspiracy. It's the simple consequences of the law of supply-and-demand. More people worldwide (like a billion Chinese) want oil. And production has not increased at anywhere near the rate of consumption. Therefore we get higher prices. There are only two choices--produce more, and consume less. That's AND, not OR. Every plan out there is simply a way of packaging that idea.

Secondly, we can stop moaning about why we haven't done anything years ago. At $1 or $2 a gallon, there was no incentive to do much of anything. It would be like going to the doctor (and paying all the corresponding costs) before you have symptoms. I've been having the exact same issues with my metabolism--it's always been a wise idea to eat right, etc. But so long as I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight, why not? But things change. And when they change, we have to react appropriately.

As for alternative sources of energy, yes, let's get on that. Wind, solar, nuclear... all great ideas. And some of them, like nuclear power, look a whole lot more attractive when gas is 4 bucks than they did at $2.50. However, cars and planes are still going to run on petroleum products, for a long while. And even when hydrogen or ethanol or whatever else is ubiquitous, there will likely always be some gas-powered engines out there, whether lawnmowers or classic cars or something. So something needs to be done about gasoline. It just floors me that some folks say we shouldn't drill for more oil because "it will take years to see the effects," but they somehow think that transforming our entire petroleum-based economy can happen overnight.

On the demand side, something is already being done through market forces. You want to drive a 12 mpg Excursion or a big RV? Your funeral. But most of the rest of us are already cutting back. Sales of smaller cars are up, miles driven are down. So that's part of it. But the other part is to produce more domestic oil. President Bush just lifted the executive ban on offshore drilling this week. The legislative version of that ban will expire in about 11 weeks. I doubt that it will be politically wise to be one of the votes in favor of extending the ban. Sure, it will take time for new oil to arrive on the market. And in the meantime, prices will likely continue to rise. But the part of the price that is in futures speculation should drop as the future looks better. And prices will rise slower, giving us more time to work toward alternatives, if we can increase production. The Shale Oil out west is supposedly more plentiful than the crude under Saudi Arabia. There was a time when it was economically unwise to extract that oil when cheaper stuff could be had on the import market. But at $140 a barrel, suddenly that source looks a lot better.

Now, there may be some choices we don't want to make, and for good reason. I know some folks are morally opposed to drilling in ANWR (I'm not, but I respect their opinion). I personally wouldn't drill in many places, like the Grand Canyon. But I say that with full knowledge that that choice comes at a price. I think any politician who wants to not drill for whatever reason (like the environment, for example) should admit that they prefer expensive gas to that choice. If they can convince enough people to vote for that, fine. But it's crummy to keep on lamenting oil prices and not doing anything about it.

So, simply put--start drilling ASAP. Keep doing all in our power to get out of the oil trap long-term. And stop whining!


Pete said...

Part 1: "But so long as I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight, why not? But things change."
WHAT! This is absolutely ridiculous! I still eat exactly what I want and I am very close* to the same weight I was in high school...
*Close is a relative term. Close can be comparative. For example, one could say the Earth is Close to Mars with respect to Pluto.

Part 2: "And when they change, we have to react appropriately."
Again, Larry. You're talking out of your mind! Are you advocating Personal Responsibility? What a crock! I think the government should step in and "protect us from ourselves" as Ronald Reagan said.
I think he actually said: "I don't believe in a government that protects us from oursleves."
Ronald Reagan

Pete said...

I could taste the sarcasm when I typed that comment.

Anonymous said...

I must admit Larry, as much as I HATE it...we are thinking of trading in my SUV for a more economical car. It saddens me. When the first vehicle you drive is your dad's F-350 duelie, it's hard to get used to being low to the ground. Sighs of sadness. But I'm sure my poor husband's wallet will be much obliged. I'm ok with that;)

bekster said...

I still don't understand why gas prices are so high while we keep fighting over there in Iraq. I mean, wasn't that the whole point of the war? ;)

(I'm completely kidding, for those of you who didn't pick up on that.)

Pete said...

gas prices are high because george bush pushed the "Raise Gas Prices" button in the oval office... didn't you know they had one? He also has a "send a hurricane to Louisiana" button, too!