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The Oil Drum: THE POLITICS OF OIL: THE DISCOURSE MUST CHANGE

by Jerome a Paris Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 04:49:50 PM EST

Crossposted from The Oil Drum with their kind permission, in order to offer this text more visibility.



The editors of The Oil Drum are ideologically diverse. Over the last year, we have created a forum at http://www.theoildrum.com to encourage an open, rational, and fact-based discussion of energy issues. While individual editors frequently express an opinion on a subject, we have never felt it necessary to take a unified position on any specific issue. That is, until today.

Full text of their appeal below the fold. It is also available as a PDF press release

Note - I am not an editor of the Oil Drum, just a fan.

Back from the front page


Leaders of both political parties are expressing concern about the high price of gasoline. President George Bush announced yesterday that he was suspending deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to make more oil available to consumers as well as putting on hold the traditional regulations requiring additives to make fuel burn cleaner during the summer driving season.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders have had their own response to rising gas prices. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has announced his support for the Menendez Amendment , which would "provide more than $6 billion in relief directly to the American people by eliminating the federal tax for both gas and diesel for 60 days." Senator Charles Schumer recently called for a federal investigation to determine whether oil companies are withholding gasoline production, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has blamed high gas prices on the administration's cozy relationship with the oil companies, price gouging, and royalty relief.

The editors of The Oil Drum are ideologically diverse. Over the last year, we have created a forum at http://www.theoildrum.com to encourage an open, rational, and fact-based discussion of energy issues. While individual editors frequently express an opinion on a subject, we have never felt it necessary to take a unified position on any specific issue. That is, until today.

We strongly feel that the leaders of both political parties are not only headed in the wrong direction with respect to gas prices, but we also worry that they fundamentally misunderstand the factors behind the current situation at gasoline stations around the US. Public statements by political figures over the past several days would seem to suggest that oil companies and their record profits are the sole factor determining the price of gasoline. Not only is this untrue, but it is dangerous to give the American people the impression that only oil companies are to blame. The American people need to understand that the phenomenon of high gas prices cannot be attributed to a single source. They also need to understand that no one political party will be able to fix our current woes.

The major factor that determines gas prices is the price of crude oil from which gasoline is derived. When crude oil prices are high, so are gas prices. The following are just a few factors that affect the price of a barrel of oil:

  1. Oil companies do not single-handedly determine the price of oil. The price of oil is set on the crude oil futures market. Simply put, these prices are affected by supply and demand because, at present, oil trades in a global commodity market where increased demand or reduced supply in one place instantly translates into price shifts everywhere. A variety of publicly available information sources show that supply is relatively static at the moment, while world demand continues to grow as economies grow.

  2. We have provided evidence many times at The Oil Drum that the output of major oilfields is declining and that we may now have reached a peak or plateau in global oil supply. Oil companies have not been able to increase production for a number of years, and it is unclear that OPEC is accurately reporting their reserves. Even if there were significant sources of high quality oil remaining, it is getting increasingly difficult and expensive to drill. These factors, along with aging infrastructure for oil exploration and a retiring workforce are also contributing to high oil prices.

  3. The geopolitical situation is volatile, and an astute citizen may notice that every time there is news from Nigeria or Iran, the price of oil goes up because of the potential and real effects of these situations on world oil supply. Again, oil traders are fearful that the supply will not remain stable forever.

  4. Countries like China and India are industrializing at a great pace, and while we are accustomed to obtaining oil at a comfortable quantity and price, it will be impossible (and immoral) to deny similar resources to these countries. China is working furiously to secure new oil supplies, and they're content to negotiate with countries we're reluctant to deal with, like Iran and the Sudan.

These points demonstrate that disruptions in the supply of oil that affect the price of gasoline at the pump are not just a temporary glitch. For various reasons--decreased discoveries of new oilfields, geopolitical instability, international competition for oil supply--we can no longer assume that we will be able to consume as much oil as possible, or ever get it again for $1.50 a gallon.

Demagoguery and grandstanding are not strategies for addressing our energy problems. As an alternative, the editors of The Oil Drum put forth the following recommendations:

  1. It is nonsensical for political leaders of both parties to eliminate the gas tax temporarily or permanently as this will only worsen our dependence on oil by disincentivizing the innovation of oil alternatives and oil conservation efforts.

  2. Both mainstream American political parties are doing their country a disservice by accusing convenient scapegoats of price gouging or price fixing instead of educating the public about how the price of gas is actually set.

  3. Right now, governments should be focused on helping us cure our "addiction to oil." The answer does not lie in lowering gas prices, which will only encourage people to drive more and further waste our valuable resources. As the Department of Energy funded Hirsch Report on Peak Oil (pdf) laid out, the consequences of not taking steps to transition away from oil could be dramatic to our economic system. Appropriate solutions include large-scale research, development, and implementation programs to improve the scalability of alternative sources of energy, other projects geared towards improving mass transit and carpooling programs across the country, providing incentives to buy smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles, and promoting a campaign to increase awareness about conservation.

The political discourse on this topic is simply so devoid of fact, and constructive discourse so buried and out of the mainstream, that we felt we needed to raise a voice of reason. Public officials will continue to misinform and obfuscate if we allow it.

The only solution is to educate the public about the most important problem we face as a generation. We, the citizens of the US and the world, must move our attention to this the issue of energy more than any other. We must hold our representative governments accountable for having an open and honest debate on the subject.

Simply put, we must learn more about where our energy comes from.

Display:

The 'high' prices that we have in the U.S. seem to have uncorked a lot of discussion lately.  I am having trouble keeping up with it all....

There is a stunning amount of resistance to the peak oil concept out there.  Or some people say that they have heard of it, but they think that is off in the future.

The thing that I am having trouble figuring out is how we deal with the rural poor.  They seem to get shafted no matter what happens.

by ericy on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 10:29:41 PM EST
Urbanisation.

( And it's good for the environment too. Population densities in the Swedish countryside has not been this low since the 18th century. Bigger and bigger areas are returned to and reclaimed by nature. Sprawl in reverse.)

And yes, the solution for the people in exurbs and suburbs is... also urbanisation.

The denser the cities, the lower the per capita oil consumption due to smaller transportation needs and stronger competitivity of mass transit.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/95/Petrol_use_urban_density.JPG

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:27:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link, definitely worth posting:



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:35:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is also a seeming correlation between good public transport and use of oil. All the ones at the bottom have very good alternatives to the use of cars (London has many disincentives for cars, not least a saxon road layout).

Also, New York has a good transport system and comes at the bottom of the US figures, despite the cultural incentive to use the car.

Before WWII Los Angeles had the best public transport system in the world, it would be interesting to see where it might have stood if that hadn't been deliberately scrapped.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
about the correlation with the adequacy of public transport systems.

BTW, what is a saxon road layout?

by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:52:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cattle tracks.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:54:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what is a saxon road layout?

Umm, this isn't the archeological text book answer but narrow roads that reflect ancient (small) field patterns, that wind and turn and intersect at all angles leading to a modern traffic nightmare.

The layout of the City still reflects the need to distribute mead to taverns by ox-cart.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 07:09:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to speak of all the cul-de-sacs whose street name is "X Mews" next to "X street/place/road", which reflects the need to keep the horses of the people living in the area.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 07:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The horses (and the mews) may yet come in handy...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:01:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for drawing attention to this one, Jerome.  I think it should be on the front page.

Here in Australia we have had slightly mixed experience with politician's handling of rising oil prices.  A couple of years ago, when retail petrol prices surged over 90 cents Australian a litre, the Howard Government got scared at the public reaction and froze the level of excise, which had previously been indexed to domestic inflation.  This didn't stop the price going past the magic $1 per litre, and the Government spent a lot of time and effort explaining that global events and world markets were to blame.

More recently, as oil passed US $60 a barrel last year, the pump price reached A$1.40 per litre.  It subsequently fell back to the 125 cents to 130 cents/litre level, but is again moving up as world prices respond to US sabre-rattling and other factors.

I have been intrigued that, while consumers are not happy with the situation, there no longer seems to be any expectation that our Government can 'fix' the problem, and the Government does not appear to see the price as a political problem.  There has been some public discussion, prompted by consumer bodies, of profiteering by the oil majors when the pump price did not fall as far as the global oil price.

Talking about petrol prices in my workplace a few days ago, it seemed to me that everyone recognised that the price was unlikely to ever go back down very far.  My colleagues have certainly noticed the extra cost to them in a country which is utterly dependent on private cars.  We discussed the likelihood, which is being raised in the local newspaper business pages, that discretionary consumption of food (eating out), clothing and holidays will fall, with consequent economic impacts.

But there is very little coverage in our MSM of the 'peak oil' issue, and I think that the Government's feeble efforts to encourage alternative energy sources are mainly window-dressing to defend them against the charge that they are doing nothing about climate change.

At the bottom of all this is the fact that there are very big coal mining and oil interests who contribute funds to the major political parties.  It is not yet in the politicians' interests to take tough decisions about energy use.  The great tragedy is that it may take many more significant natural disasters (caused by climate change) or significant economic pain affecting large numbers of voters before the politicians change tack.

by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 02:24:08 AM EST
George Bush announced yesterday that he was suspending deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to make more oil available to consumers as well as putting on hold the traditional regulations requiring additives to make fuel burn cleaner during the summer driving season.
Jeesas effing Kreist! Those are exactly the wrong policy choices!

Next time the shit hits the fan (like after Katrina) he'll probably expect the EU to subserviently hand over its own reserves, right? Particularly if oil exports from the Persian Gulf are held up because of the little military adventure in Iran that we know he's planning.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:53:02 AM EST
As for the Democrats and their support for a waiver of the gas tax... I think the rest of the world'd better get ready for life without oil because these people won't stop at anything to make sure they get their incresing share of global production.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:55:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the fear. With China cosying up to Iran, Venezuala, Sudan and Saudi, a super-power conflict over access to resources looks very likely.

But seeing as China owns the US economy, that could be an interesting show.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:53:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I'm sure I saw yesterday that the amount saved is a drop in the ocean compared with the amount the US is consuming.

But yes, it does send entirely the wrong message. Pouring petrol on the flames is entirely the appropriate image.

ps Jerome, can't be bothered reading the comments on kos (life is way too short). Do they get the problem on there yet ? Or are they still saying it's culturally unacceptable ? If the latter, what are they gonna do when it's all gone ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:49:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A mix of

  • Cultural unacceptablilty.
  • "What about the rural poor???"
  • It's a vote loser.
  • The odd voice of sanity.

They don't want to face it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:51:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The rural poor argument is pretty funny: it boils down to "our system is fucked, so we can't fix it."
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:52:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Either the "rural poor" survive on subsistence agriculture, and then they can actually subsist, or they don't even have a minimal plot on land and then WTF are they doing out there in the middle of nowhere having to get food shipped to them?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 07:01:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If that's snark, it's a bit kind of rude and dismissive of people who don't have that many choices in life. Certainly not the choice of moving into towns where the cost of living is higher than the rural one they're already having trouble with. And, er... Why should people in rural areas bother making food that needs transporting into town to feed urbanites? Hmm?

This said, I agree, as others have said too, that the "rural poor" is a strawman when we're talking about the price of oil-based fuels (for vehicles or heating).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:09:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not meant as a snark. I suspect a lot of these "rural poor" just lead an "urban poor" lifestyle in the middle of nowhere, or have long commutes to the nearest town. Then there is the struggling family farm.

But I'm serious: those who barely make do with subsistence agriculture, at least can subsist. You can't eat dirt, but you can grow things in it. The urban poor can't eat asphalt, not grow anything in it.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:14:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You've lost me there...

What the hell are you talking about?

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:24:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Umm, aren't they making a mountain out of a molehill with all this rural poor malarkey ?

For starters ,the rural poor started becoming a big feature of the US landscape only after Reagan bankrupted them and then Wal-Mart finished them off by removing producer access to markets.

How many people are we talking about ? Seriously, the US is effectively empty outside the cities. Urban americans are massively under-represented in Washington because Senate and Congressional numbers  don't represent the real concentration of populations.

Yes, there is a real problem with poverty in the USA, rural and urban. They need some serious answers to some serious problems and they could do with some serious politicians to do it. But saying that you can't begin to address a major crisis confronting the whole of America cos it will negatively impact a  minority whose issues are entirely separate is the equivalent of avoiding a problem by going "Look....a kitten"

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 07:04:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1995, there were 2,288 rural counties [there are 3,086 counties in the United States (source)] in the US, constituting 83% of the land and home to 21% (51,000,000) of the population. (source)
...
Currently, rural capital is flowing into either urban areas or some 33-40% of rural counties, namely the intermountain West, the Ozarks, counties along I-80 in Nebraska, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
...
Rural society is faced with various problems including the environmental degradation and overuse of water resources, the establishment and inadequate regulation of toxic waste dumps, and poverty.
It seems like a more serious problem and a larger constituency than we give it credit for. Maybe cskendrick can pitch in with some data.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 07:11:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a real problem and a real constituency as far as I know but driving ever increasing distances for work isn't a remotely sensible solution.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 07:19:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The thing that makes it harder is that the vast majority of the jobs are in cities, but housing costs in cities is very expensive.  Thus people who work in low-wage jobs end up driving long distances to get to work.

I suppose the natural outcome of this is that wages for these low-wage jobs to rise.

by ericy on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:01:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not a problem that precludes a gasoline tax, however. Or rather, it only does so if you consider a flat uniform tax the only possibility. One could envision a gasoline tax based on population density for example. Or some complex scheme with income tax credits for low-income people and small businesses who would be hit disproportionally by a regressive gasoline sales tax. The rural poor is just another tool in the arsenal of those against a gas tax. A more serious problem is the stubborn unwillingness to change displayed by the affluent or relatively affluent suburbanite and exurbanite population who believe they need to drive.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends on who gets the revenue for the gasoline tax. If the rural counties get the revenue from their own residents they can try to use if to fund policies tailored to the needs of the local population. But that's a tax-and-spend solution.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:43:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right, of course. Progressive taxes are the worst of all taxes. Shed a tear for the rural poor, but refuse any policy that might help them.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 09:32:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how a tax on a commodity can be made progressive. Then again, I do support a tax-exempt living wage, for instance.

The rural poor are going to have to change their lifestyle like everyone else.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 09:41:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure. But maybe one could begin with those for whom change would impact access to luxuries rather than essentials. My argument is that 'the rural poor' is a false obstacle if one really wishes to implement a gasoline tax. Provisions could be made to not devastate them if that is ones concern. 'The rural poor' is more likely an argument made by those who don't want such a tax for other reasons than a real concern for this group.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:34:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On that I agree. Particularly on DKos, it seems odd to me to see blue-state (sub)urbanites suddenly worried about the fate of the red-state rural poor they so often despise.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:38:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the liberal version of the estate tax arguement.  Disgusts me.

And don't forget Clinton on Nafta and Welfare reform...  Ooohhhh, we care so much about the poor.  Then buy a cheaper car and give the difference to charity.  Puhlease...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:12:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I realize now you were snarking...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:50:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe in leaving out the snark tags. To allow extra ambiguity in statements and keep everyone on their toes. Misunderstandings are essential to honest debate. Or at least sometimes funny.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:11:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After getting into some epic shouting matches I've learnt to use the snark tags when necessary.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:15:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I avoid them, but I'm generally pretty careful about it and ready to immediately apologise and clarify if someone misses the point.

Unless I'm feeling malicious for some reason.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the multi-first-language community EuroTrib, it is particularly easy to misunderstand something.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:18:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. And one could argue that I ought to follow the conventions of this community that I am barging in on, etc. I agree with this in principle. But the snark tags are just so distasteful, and my semi-anarchist leanings might predispose me to some rudeness. After reading this blog for a month or so, it seems people here are generally not that easily offended. Tricky situation.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:36:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do as you care to, we can always use a bit of novelty. And as you write, an apology usually solves any misunderstandings that can emerge between reasonable people - which most of us here are, I think (too much, even, maybe...)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:41:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the snark tags are just so distasteful, and my semi-anarchist leanings might predispose me to some rudeness.

Nevermind - nothing I said should be taken as compulsory :-)

After reading this blog for a month or so, it seems people here are generally not that easily offended.

Well, eh, you dropped in after some mighty screaming matches were over :-) There was the ET-hates-Russians, the ET-hates-Britons, the Migeru-is-anti-American, multilinguals-exclude-us, and a number of other, usually based on serial misunderstandings. But people learned to deal with it, partly by indicating snarks if in danger of being taken as insult, partly by being offended less easily. (Myself, I am in a funny situation, having been made a frontpager with peacemaking duties, despite an on-line past that included quite a bit of flame-thrower use :-) )

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:23:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Semi-anarchistic, huh? Just what exactly would that mean?



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:30:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that guy almost at origo me?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 08:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, sorry, you're the Beta male around here ;-)

The map is clickable, by the way.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 08:10:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
an additional "row" for your income tax?

Write in the miles you have to drive to your job.
If your income is below a certain level, you get a tax credit depending on the miles driven.

Might help during the transition period.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:54:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unacceptable, as it encourages people to drive rather than use mass transit when available.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:43:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Germany, you can deduct a fixed amount of (Euro) cents per kilometer to drive to your job. Regardless if you use public transport or your own car.

However I offered this in the context of the current American political situation. Reading lots of diaries and comments on DKos wailing about political suicide if the gas price won´t come down. Not to mention tax increases on gas like we have in Europe. :)

In that context a tax credit for commuting might be a good idea for a limited time. Help the "poorer" people now to gain their vote for more decisive action tomorrow.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Sat Apr 29th, 2006 at 06:03:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can do it in France. Capped at 40km/day, but you can claim more if you can prove special circumstances.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 03:01:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seriously, the US is effectively empty outside the cities

If you count the suburbs as 'cities'.

Urban americans are massively under-represented in Washington because Senate and Congressional numbers  don't represent the real concentration of populations.

If by Congress you mean the House, how are urban populations underrepresented?  House districts are basically equal in population size.

by MarekNYC on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 06:17:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

There are also the people who demand that a cheap alternative be developed so that life as usual can proceed.  I suppose ultimately a sense of denial - not so uch denial that oil will run out, but denial that life has to change.

I run into this in conversations with people.  They make the argument that "The U.S. is different from Europe - we cannot do things that way".  To which my answer is that we have no choice but to change.

by ericy on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:27:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe today is a result of many policy changes adopted as a result of the 1970's oil shocks. All the same, people on DKos keep arguing that the Democrats cannot afford to "make the same mistake Carter made".

What worries me is that I don't see European governments talking realistically about the issue, and I'm not confident that they are enacting the right policies behind the scenes. Everyone has caught the free-market liberalism bug and believe that the market will fix things without the need for policy choices.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:35:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As has been pointed out (by Jerome, I believe) doing nothing is a policy choice.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:44:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Death, starvation and (in the best case) being stuck where you are are efficient market solutions to oil shortages.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 09:12:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Amartya Sen, famines don't happen in functioning democracies. It is argued that the Irish potato famine escalated from a food shortage to a famine due to the free-market fundamentalism of the Whig government, which was ignorant and unresponsive [hence not properly democratic] towards Ireland.

Do we have a valid analogy here between famine and the possible consequences of a severe oil shock?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 09:24:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC:
A French government report on the global oil industry forecasts a possible peak in world production as early as 2013.
by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:35:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Independent published an 8-page special in January which made it quite clear the supply crisis will is very likely to have hit by 2012. (Jerome's diary on it)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:23:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can recognize peak oil, and still think the Oildrum's editors are oilco shills.  What they recommend is functionally identical to what Bush recommends, and the righties are delighted with it.  Unlike Jerome's plan, they make no effort to try and help lower income people get off oil.  Nope, high prices and demand destruction are their creed.  And don't actually invest in anything, just do more research.  

Any Democrat who wants to buck the tide to defend Repubs and oilcos would have to be insane.

by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:34:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Especially since we Europeans have probably already refined some of that oil into gasoline.
Fast food for the SUVs. :)
by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:39:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Bush runs on empty (Financial Times)

Pity the leader of a nation that regards cheap petrol as a basic human right. That is President George W. Bush's position as pump prices start to approach a high of $3 a gallon ahead of next month's driving season - and next autumn's mid-term elections - while his approval ratings are closing fast on a low of about 30 per cent.

 (...)

After the attacks of September 11 2001, the president had a unique opportunity to create a bipartisan and public consensus behind increased energy efficiency and reduced energy dependency, especially on oil imported from politically unreliable parts of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. He did not take it.

(...)

In the end, however, America's addiction can be beaten only by hard policy decisions: rigorous fuel-efficiency standards, a tax regime that prices petrol realistically, as well as a framework of incentives for investment in alternative technologies. Meanwhile, the best agent of change is expensive oil.


Phony War on Gas (Washington Post)

NO DOUBT IT makes everyone feel better when the president states his concern for Americans, who are now paying more than $3 a gallon for gasoline. Unfortunately, the measures President Bush chose to announce this week to combat high prices are either meaningless or possibly dangerous in the long run, even if they do offer a bit of temporary relief.

(...)

The president has, of course, had plenty of opportunities over the past five years to shape a more rational energy policy, one that would have provided incentives to move away from oil and toward other energy sources. He could have lobbied harder to remove the oil industry tax benefits from the energy bill he signed. He could have insisted that Congress add more tax breaks for hybrid cars, as he now says he wishes it had done. He could lift the tariffs on Brazilian ethanol, which would help address some of the ethanol shortages across the country. He could have endorsed a tax on oil and coal, which of course would not lower the price of gasoline but would, again, begin to reduce demand while encouraging investment in new technologies.


I Smell Gas - A subject that makes congressmen stupid. (Slate)

Few topics seem to addle the collective brain of Washington like high gas prices. Politicians who raise this issue can generally be assumed to be partisan, cynical, demagogic, and dishonest. But one must not discount the possibility that something about the subject actually makes them stupid.

(...)

What none can acknowledge is that higher gas prices in the United States are a good thing. To be sure, oil at $70 a barrel causes hardships for working people and delights some of the world's worst dictators. But cheap gasoline imposes its own costs on society: greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and its attendant health risks, traffic congestion, and accidents. The ideal way to cope with these externalities would be with higher gas taxes or a carbon tax. But these are politically impossible ideas at the moment--Democrats lost control of Congress in part because they passed a 4-cent-per-gallon tax increase in 1993. The next best solution is the one that has arrived on its own: a high market price for oil, which spurs conservation and substitution. Sustained high prices will bring about behavioral and political changes: energy conservation, public transportation, less exurban sprawl, and eventually the economic viability of alternative fuel sources such as biomass, fuel cells, wind, and solar power, which may one day undermine the power of the oil oligarchs. Are politicians too stupid to understand this, or just smart enough not to say it aloud?



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 06:32:28 AM EST
Just for fun. :)


Going a Short Way to Make a Point

...
Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) hopped in a GMC Yukon (14 mpg). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) climbed aboard a Nissan Pathfinder (15). Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) stepped into an eight-cylinder Ford Explorer (14). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) disappeared into a Lincoln Town Car (17). Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) met up with an idling Chrysler minivan (18).

Next came Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), greeted by a Ford Explorer XLT. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Menendez had complained that Bush "remains opposed to higher fuel-efficiency standards."

Also waiting: three Suburbans, a Nissan Armada V8, two Cadillacs and a Lexus. The greenest senator was Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who was picked up by his hybrid Toyota Prius (60 mpg), at quadruple the fuel efficiency of his Indiana counterpart Evan Bayh (D), who was met by a Dodge Durango V8 (14).
...
If the politics of gasoline favor Democrats at the moment, the insincerity is universal. A surreptitious look at the cars in the senators-only spots inside and outside the Senate office buildings found an Escort and a Sentra (super-rich Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl's spot had a Chevy Lumina), but far more Jaguars, Cadillacs and Lexuses and a fleet of SUVs made by Ford, Honda, BMW and Lexus.
...

It´s starts with describing a bunch of Senators driving one block to protest against high gas prices at a gas station.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:10:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What?!

Wht the Hell did they drive one block to protest high fuel prices instead of walking the block?!

Can't they see they are the problem?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:46:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it is a column by Dana Milbank.
I suspect that he was a bit "snarky". :)


She [Barbara Boxer] then hopped in a waiting Chrysler LHS (18 mpg) -- even though her Senate office was only a block away.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) used a Hyundai Elantra to take the one-block journey to and from the gas-station [Exxon station on Capitol Hill] news conference. He posed in front of the fuel prices and gave them a thumbs-down. "Get tough on big oil!" he demanded of the Bush administration.

I thought it was a really funny column. Totally neutral and hitting both parties.

But it seems to be a symbol for mainstream America. Including many commenters on American left-wing blogs.
Like "make the pain/high gas prices go away!"

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A CS Monitor article from August 26, 2005.


Gas Prices Too High? Try Europe.
...
"Societies adjust over decades to higher fuel prices," says Jos Dings, head of Transport and Energy, a coalition of European environmental NGOs. "They find many mechanisms."

Chief among them, say experts, is the habit of driving smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. While the average light duty vehicle on US highways gets 21.6 miles per gallon (m.p.g.), according to a study by the Paris based International Energy Agency (IEA), in Paris, its European counterpart manages 32.1 m.p.g.
...
But efficiency alone does not explain the huge disparity between fuel-use figures on either side of the Atlantic: European per capita consumption of gas and diesel stood at 286 liters a year in 2001, compared to 1,624 in the US, according to IEA figures.

The nature of cities plays a role, too. "America has built its entire society around the car, which enabled suburbs," points out Mr. Dings. "European cities have denser centers where cars are often not practical."
...
"The single most effective measure" that has brought down motorists' fuel use in Europe, however, is taxation, says Dings.
...

The article got a nice graphic at the bottom too.
Named "Fuel Economy Trend Lines".

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:18:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Peak Oil enters mainstream debate
...
A French government report on the global oil industry forecasts a possible peak in world production as early as 2013.
...
The report 'The Oil Industry 2004' takes a long look at future production and supply issues.

But perhaps what is most interesting about this Economics, Industry & Finance Ministry report, is that it actually mentions a possible production plateau at all.
...
The report's second chapter 'Global Exploration and Production' runs a series of differing scenarios based on current forecasts.

The scenarios differ according to projected demand increases, from 0% to 3% per annum, and possible new field discoveries, between zero and fifty billion barrels a year.

At a rate of 3% increase in demand per year and annual finds of 10 billion barrels, the ministry report states 2013 as "the time of maximum production or 'peak oil'".
...
It is also very unusual to find a government report using the wording 'peak oil'. This is a phrase often used to describe the theory of a global oil production plateau, after which production would begin to decline.
...

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:32:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005

Not really a steaming fresh article. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:54:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Upps.
Forgot to mention that.
Just found it surprising that it was already mentioned last year by mainstram media.
And that CS Monitor article about comparing gas prices in the USA and Europe from last year was quite good too.

Not to mention that Migeru asked if European governments were even thinking about the problem. The BBC article was a partial answer.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This may seem somewhat off topic, but to really understand the policies of the US which favor rural areas you need to know how the two legislative houses are set up.

For the purposes of this discussion the most important is the senate, with two members per state (regardless of population). This was done for historical reasons when the constitution was written, but the disparity between rural and urban states has increased in the last 200 years and the issue is now more stark.

The bottom line is that about 17% of the population controls 50% of the senate seats. All but two of these states are low density, rural.
I put together a chart which shows this graphically:
Senate vs Population.

In the house, which is proportional to population, sparsely populated states still get an edge since they must have one representative regardless of population.

The result of this has been an emphasis on farm supports, rural development, shortchanging of urban projects and a host of other ills which are not obvious at first.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 05:09:40 PM EST
Gas prices in the US by County

Out of curiosity to see what the clueless MSM were saying about peak oil and climate change I not only grabbed the PO issue of Am Prospect (which I dismissed contemptuously in an earlier thread for its touching, childlike faith in corn ethanol and Barack Obama) but also the seizure-inducing "Green Issue" of Vanity Fair -- a most aptly named mag if you actually remember the novel.  VF is -- how to describe -- Hollywood Confidential meets Elle, or something like that.  Am Prospect looks soberly realistic by comparison.  And yet...  for actual pages of relevant minatory content, VF might just win.

So, in the VF Green issue, the inside front page foldout (premiere spot) is a performance/luxury 'cute ute' ad.  Ads continue for page after page of 4-colour offset (using toxic heavy-metal inks no doubt, on virgin dioxin-bleached claycoat):  SUVs, perfumes, cosmetics, luxury handbags, more exotic cosmetics priced about the same as gold by troy weight, travel ads, gold jewellery, more travel ads, etc.  Most of the affluent world's maximally destructive habits lavishly represented and promoted, before you ever get to any actual content.  My ironometer is pegged already.

Now the articles, most of which boil down to "Pretty People Prefer Priuses," "Some Greens Dress Nicely and are Good Looking," and variations on these themes.  Plenty of snarky, snide, vicious little jabs at Birkenstocks, lentils, tie dye, tree hugging, and any critique of capitalism -- just so yesterday, m'dear.  Trying to make it clear that Pretty Wealthy People Green-ness is a whole new, fashionable, stylish and above all upper-crusty thing, not some dreary shtick about, you know, serious ideas discussed by nonphotogenic vegetarian anoraks who drive old cars or godforbid ride a bike.  Token third world activist -- just one -- Wangari Maathai.  Everyone else seems white and 80 percent male.  Feature pages:  nifty expensive gifts to buy that are green or pseudo-green -- how to Keep Consuming Pointlessly with a Clear Conscience.

However, I give the editor his due -- in among all this incitement to grand mal he ran two excellent, lengthy, substantive feature articles:  one on MTR (mountain top removal) coal mining in Appalachia, one on projected rises in sea levels.  Both are excellent -- fact filled and chewy -- and I will try to scan some of the graphics to share.  The mag as a whole though had about the same effect on me as the corpse of a diseased rat.  I kinda don't even like touching it :-)  Every pathology of the overripe zenith of American hyperconsumerism and narcissism, proudly flaunted in one shiny, garishly overcoloured, borderline-porno, pretty-shiny-toxic package.  What an experience.  What does it do to the brain to ingest one of these every month?  Gotta drink some electrolytes, I'm in culture shock...

Question is, does the editor do a good strategic deed by slipping some serious content in among the big colourful bag of M&Ms and Qaaludes?  getting an urgent message to people who would otherwise resolutely refuse to hear it?  Or does he guarantee that the impact of these grim, hard-hitting articles will be lost, muffled in the layers and layers of corporate glitz and feelgood meringue in which he's wrapped them?  The most serious (best contiguous page count and least conflict between text and graphics) layout was reserved for Junger's latest rubberneck art, an investigative essay on the Boston Strangler.  Hmmm.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:01:15 PM EST
Worth a 5, but they don't do those here. :)

I'd say it's progress getting any kind of mention of the real world into something like VF. So I'd be more inclined to be generous. Given that editorial will be consciously and deliberately advertiser-friendly, mentioning Real Issues and introducing a hint of ugly is almost brave.

There's a media disconnect between ad speak, which deals with the unreal by definition but tries to look as plausible as possible, and journalism/documentary which is (more or less) presented as reality but diluted by the standardised semi-formal presentation.

What would be shocking would be to package the real impact of all of the energetic consumption using the language of advertising. Imagine an entire magazine of juxtapositions of air-brushed beauty on one side of the page followed by one (or more) images showing what's involved in making those cars, diamonds and handbags.

Adbusters do this already, but they're not neutral enough - they slip too easily into activist rage and ranting, which I think only reaches the converted. Something more dispassionately revealing - show, don't tell - could be more effective with the VF crowd.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:07:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find the content of Adbusters very interesting, but the presentation is offputting in almost the same way as VF though with a different twist.  There is something very self-regarding, ostentatious, grandiose about it.  This has always troubled me about Lasn's effort;  even more than Mikey M's films some of this projects seem to serve a kind of ego stroking purpose for the authors/artists (and AB print version wastes a helluva lot of dead tree space in the process) at least as much as communicating information to the reader.  But I guess AB is the product of people who all went to art and design schools, a demographic utterly foreign to me ... my idea of good layout is New Scientist, Physics Today, or conference proceedings -- as much information density as can possibly be managed w/in the page format, occasional quantitative graphics with Tufte-ian creds.  For layout I prefer the little E Euro journal Carbusters or the indie US zine StayFree, both of which economise on the dead trees by cranking up the information density, w/o imho losing any graphic charm or humour...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 03:11:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So I'd be more inclined to be generous.

I agree.  While reading DeAnander's comment up to this point, I was totally thinking precisely what her first question asks.  Her alternate consideration definitely made me pause but, in the end, seeping awareness of these issues "upwards" into the Vanity Fair -- even its through pretty people and expensive green doodads -- it's a net good thing.

For the record, I love Vanity Fair.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 09:16:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please post this on the front page as it is. Please?
Or do I have to do it myself again?!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 03:59:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good closing questions. No idea. It would be good to ask the editor directly.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 04:22:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You outdid yourself (again). I wonder how many more times we need to say this to you.

Since this:

Plenty of snarky, snide, vicious little jabs at Birkenstocks, lentils, tie dye, tree hugging, and any critique of capitalism -- just so yesterday, m'dear.  Trying to make it clear that Pretty Wealthy People Green-ness is a whole new, fashionable, stylish and above all upper-crusty thing, not some dreary shtick about, you know, serious ideas discussed by nonphotogenic vegetarian anoraks who drive old cars or godforbid ride a bike.

completely cracked me up. Especially the very well placed  "you know". Holy cow. You deserve a four and a free cookie point in itself for that.

I've read some on MTR mining - and am more than appalled. Nobody wants to hear this but I would predict that with continuous increased metals demand and prices this development will move even further out of hand. MTR is beyond bad; it's about redesigning the earth's surface entirely. Toss the incremental slow processes of surface modelling, glacial ice sheets, natural river drainage, slope stability, soil erosion, fauna diversity, etc etc, out of the window - man can do it too, and better. Let's not even begin on ocean floor mining, or I might blow your cap.

On an upbeat track, did you (or anyone) read the National Geographic of this month (May 2006, the one with the Judas Gospel)? There's a intersting feature on what Prince Charles is doing with his Duchy in Cornwall. It's sustainable life and culture protection - the English way. Not everything I read I could agree on, but it did read like one step in a direction you've been promoting from day one I've been reading you.

by Nomad on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 07:58:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There must be some upside to the UK's land ownership situation. </snark>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 08:05:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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