The Price of Gasoline

The price of gas was $2.40 a gallon when I pulled into the gas station yesterday.
There's been a lot of hand-wringing over this "crisis." For me it wasn't much of a crisis, but my ten gallons of fossilized fern did cost me more.

In the long term, of course, everyone acknowledges the need to find alternate energy sources. There is, after all, only so much oil and coal. Everyone is positive about the future of wind and solar power. And of course, fuel cells... and who can forget fusion reactors. Alternative power sources are coming "real soon now."

The new energy bill that passed last Friday included a lot of tax breaks for alternative energy sources.
I saw a picture of President Bush in front of a wind turbine. Very moving.
The assumption seems to be that we will switch to a cleaner power source once that source becomes available, and completely painless.

But I think the real question is, why do we, as a society, keep paying the high price of gasoline?
I mean, it's pretty obvious to everybody just what those costs are. Smog. Lung cancer. The risk of climate change. In the case of diesel exhaust, lead poisoning. The whole Middle East situation.

Truthfully, I think gasoline OUGHT to cost more than it does. We should bring our prices in line with Europe's, where gas can cost as much as $5 a gallon.
Why? Simple. The only thing that can make clean power viable is an increase in the cost of conventional power. Nothing else will do. Funding for R&D? Just a costly boondoggle. Tax breaks? Just another technicality for the tax lawyers to mull over.

Decisions at well-run large corporations are not made by idealists or ethicists. They're made on the basis of profit and loss-- and sometimes, for PR value. All of these well-meaning, idealistic half-measures are just ways to ease the public's conscience. They're just Potemkin villages set up to reassure people that yes, BP really does care about your children's future-- and by the way, the tooth fairy is real too.

I notice that one thing the energy bill does accomplish is making oil and gas exploration cheaper.
In the words of cnn.com:
"The bill provides $14.5 billion in tax breaks and potentially billions more in loan guarantees and other subsidies to encourage oil and gas drilling, improve natural gas and electric transmission lines, build new nuclear power reactors and expand renewable energy sources."

That's right... even if you walk to work in your all-natural hemp clothing, and spend your entire day peeling organic potatoes, you are helping to pay for oil and gas drilling all over the world.
Whoopee. I don't know if I can handle any more "freedom."

A lot of people are predicting that there will be some kind of oil crash. The peak oil theory, among others, makes this prediction. Supposedly, at some dire moment, all the oil rigs will simultaneously stop spewing, and the leaders of the world will come back from their golf courses to find a crisis of global proportions.

I don't buy it. First of all, we currently have the ability to turn coal into oil. It's not efficient, of course, but this means that once oil starts getting low, we can keep the current infrastructure burning for that much longer. Second of all, what reason is there to supposed that oil supplies are going to decline any time soon?

My greatest fear is that there won't be an oil crash, or even a slowdown. My greatest fear is that we'll keep going until every inch of oil and coal has been burned up, every last iota of carbon dioxide released. If our so-called leaders don't have the spine to take action now, why should we suppose that they will have it in 10 years, or even 50? It's just the tragedy of the commons, on a global scale.

I'm sorry for the long and excessively bitter post. But I promised you a rant, and here it is.
That's all for now.


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