Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why we should pray for $10 per gallon gas!

This is an excellent piece because it talks about an issue that nobody else seems to be addressing in the energy consumption equation. As a society that is addicted to consumerism, that addiction is being threatened by our other addiction of oil consumption. Every barrel of oil that is consumed in energy and transportation use is a barrel of oil that will never be able to be used for they myriad of products that are already based on petrochemicals.

In this piece, Dale Lerch, a chemical engineer makes the point that future generations will be denied the ability to discover or use countless yet undiscovered products that could very well be the products that are desperately needed for the survival of our planet.

Thank You Dale for this post (and for allowing me to re-post it). Good job!

Why we should pray for
$10 per gallon gas!

By Dale Lerch

First, some basic facts:

In 2007, the United States had 4.5% of the total world's population (303 million / 6.707 billion; Wikipedia).

In 2007, the United States consumed 26% of the total world's energy usage (gas, oil, hydroelectric; World Almanac).

In 2007, approximately 2 billion folks in the world live without electricity.

Now to oil:

Since I was educated as a chemical engineer, I've come to understand that oil -- that tarry black liquid that for which we are fighting a war in Iraq -- is the very most versatile building block of chemistry. Hydrocarbons make plastics, carbon fibers stronger than steel for aircraft and cars, medicines, and probably 5000 more important products still undiscovered. Every year we learn how to make over 200 new fantastic products and chemicals from oil. In short, oil will be the very most important resource for the well-being of your great-grandchildren!

And what are we doing with it? WE ARE BURNING IT UP TO DRIVE TO THE MALL! I liken it to heating your house in winter by burning your family's heirlooms.

Now on to $10 gas:

Unlike the rest of the world, Americans absolutely refuse to make use of energy efficient modes of transportation like public transportation. Why? Because we've pursued a reckless policy of guaranteeing cheap energy prices for over 50 years -- all with dire future consequences:

1) Because of this faulty policy, when oil was selling for $2/barrel, our policies (tax, incentives, etc.) protected domestic oil producers from competition from other world sources. If we were smart, we'd have sealed our oil wells in those days, and pumped as much oil as possible from other world sources. And we now have a president and vice-president who have the same "Texas oilman's mentality" (if you can to stretch a bit to provide them with this compliment) that was the basis of past failed policies.

2) We have the most costly transportation system in the world! It is based on autos & freeways, whereas India, Mexico, China have widespread and low-cost public transportation systems. The net effect? Manufacturers have to pay their employees enough money to get to work. So guess who ends up being the high-cost manufacturer in the world? You got it right if you said US! After World War II, we became rich as the world's manufacturer because we were the ONLY kid on the block who had facilities not destroyed by war. WE AIN'T THE ONLY KID ON THE BLOCK NO MORE! So no wonder that everything you buy at Wal-Mart is no longer "Made in U.S.A."

3) Europe, which has subsidized public transportation for generations with highly taxed gasoline is now prepared to weather high oil prices for one reason -- they're used to it! They've been paying over $4/gallon for years, building a vast system of trains, trolleys and buses with those gasoline taxes. Their infrastructure is in place to handle high energy costs. Ours is not. Yet we hear neither presidential candidate talk about this critical need for our country. Why? Because Americans are bellyaching about $4 gas and are prepared to vote for whichever candidate promises to keep guaranteeing cheap energy! And, instead of praying for guidance for our presidential candidates to confront the needed hard choices that face us, one church group was reported last week holding prayer vigils at a gas station praying for lower gas prices. I'm not surprised; the Pope once insisted the world was flat!

4) The price of oil is based on increasing world demand, and not some bogeyman lurking in the shadows of Wall Street. Yes, speculators temporarily drive up prices, but only because they are predictors of future prices. If they have bet wrong, prices will fall fast. However, FOR THE LONG TERM, THEY AIN'T WRONG FOLKS! All those products you bought at Wal-Mart last week made someone on the other side of this world a bit richer -- someone who now can afford to take that Sunday drive. This is good! It's why free-trade is good for the world. But, it also makes them want a slightly larger slice of the world's energy usage. Seems fair to me when we use 5 times as much as anyone else. But that slight increase in THEIR slice means higher oil prices because the world just doesn't have the capacity to match it in oil refining at this time. (We've known about this limitation for years, have given oil corporations unbelievable tax breaks, yet not a single refinery has been constructed in the U.S. in the last 32 years!)

So what is the solution? You got it, $10 gas! The sooner, the better! Last month, for the FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS, AMERICANS CUT BACK ON ENERGY USAGE, and not just mildly. When gas hits $5 per gallon -- and it will before the end of this summer or next summer at the latest -- we'll do more. Imagine the clamor for extending the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) to the San Joaquin Valley when it hits $10 -- something once considered "a waste of taxpayer dollars" just a few years ago. And maybe too we might just vote for someone who promises higher taxes for developing and investing in new clean energy sources.

I CAN'T WAIT! Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have some oil left at a reasonable price for your great-grandchildren to enjoy some of those yet undiscovered 5000 new products made from oil!

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