Tuesday, August 05, 2008

GAS PAINS, CONTINUED: PETROPOLICY

If you've read my recent posts, you know that I think this gasoline price crisis has been orchestrated by the oil industry and large commodity speculators. Think about it this way: gasoline is what we would consider a staple in our society, kind of like milk, eggs, flour, sugar. We all rely on it, either for our private vehicles, the public buses we ride, air travel, and, in some areas, generating electricity. Have you ever seen the price of milk, eggs, flour, sugar go up and down to such an extent, and in such a short period of time, as we have recently seen with gasoline? No. So why is this happening?

How do our political leaders respond to this situation? John McCain wants to drill the hell out of our coastal waters; Barack Obama now wants to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to put more gasoline on the market and get some price relief. Although I shake my head in dismay watching Obama cave in to political and election pressure, at least I know that he frames the discussion with the need for a comprehensive energy policy. (Note: the Bush policy was developed behind closed doors by Lord Darth Cheney; it seems to have been: invade Iraq and get their oil - oops.)

Where is the leader, or presumptive leader, who is truth-telling about petroleum? Where is the leader who is telling us exactly why the price of gasoline at the pump is jumping around like a drop of water on a hot skillet? Does anyone get it that the petro companies are raking in the largest profits ever (I call it obscene)?

Note to presidential candidates (Barack, are you reading this?) - tell The People why the price of gas is so high and so volatile; tell us what your plan is to fix this once and for all. And by the way, drilling for more oil, or developing coal shale deposits (a costly environmental disaster) is not the correct answer. For me, something like "let's accelerate alternative fuel technologies; let's build a great mas transit system, including fast trains, let's nationalize the oil industry (oops, can't do that - it's socialism)" is getting close to where we need to be - but I won't hold my breath.

(Full disclosure: I actually think gasoline should cost $5.00 per gallon to get us off the habit - with provisions to help those who really can't afford it and need to drive to get to work, etc. Also, my wife and I own some Royal Dutch Shell stock, and last time I looked, our return on that buy is 40-some percent - nice. But I can live without that kind of profit IF it means a more rational energy policy.)

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