As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gas, and Hot Air

It seems to me that rising gas prices, at least lately, never ends up being a political issue. The prices spike around the first of May, everyone gets angry about it, and by the fall they go down, and elections are decided on other issues. Still, in the short term legislators must give the appearance of paying attention to the nation's concerns. So today the President announced some initiatives to try and curb high gasoline prices. And I'm glad Nedra Pickler didn't bury the lede (which NPR neglected all morning long):

Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline

President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump. He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve.

The moves came as political pressure intensified on Bush to do something about gasoline prices that are expected to stay high throughout the summer.

NPR foregrounded the suspension of purchase for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is a pittance and cannot possibly change the market in any meaningful way. Even in the speech, the President acknowledged this by saying "every little bit helps." Which is exactly what he's doing in that case, a LITTLE BIT.

But the key point is that he's suspending environmental rules. This is what Big Oil really wanted. They don't want to build new refineries and they don't want to spend money to adapt to any environmental standards. It's true that it costs more to get oil out of the ground nowadays, because all the low-hanging fruit is gone. Oil prices at these numbers are here to stay. But refining capacity doesn't need to be this narrow, and THAT'S what's driving the current spike in gas. The "shortage" of oil is man-made.

This commenter has it about right:

This whole crisis is bullshit. There is no oil shortage in the world at the moment. Maybe in 20 years there may be but in 2006, oil is stil everywhere. The problem is refineries. Oil companies refuse to build new ones as they would just ease the stanglehold they have on supply.

The bottleneck causing prices in lack of refineries and greed, that's it.

It is amazing how well big oil propaganda works, just look at all the people who think oil is high due to scarcity. It has nothing to do with the world running low on oil, and everything to do with big oil not willing to invest in new refineries.

And by suspending environmental rules, Big Oil reduces the need to have to build any more refineries to meet those standards.

And I'm sure they see it in their interests to drop gas prices a little bit now, presuming a cause-and-effect between the suspension of environmental rules and prices, hopefully generating enough goodwill to suspend them permanently.

And we all suffer for that. We need to move away from an oil-based economy TODAY. This is an instance where you can vote with your pocketbook. I'm in the market for a new car (my lease is up in June), and I simply refuse to buy anything that uses less than 35 mpg. I'm also interested in the Honda model that uses CNG (compressed natural gas), leaving no emissions. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles that emit nothing but water are interesting too.

You'll continue to hear that there's no market for these vehicles, that the startup costs are too great. The cost to our planet is too great NOT to move in this direction.