Monday, May 26, 2008
I have mixed feelings about the price of gas. On the one hand, it's certainly hurting me personally, as I've chosen to live my life far enough out of town that I need to drive quite a bit. On the other hand, gasoline causes huge harms to the environment, and only high prices will change the way we use it.
As gas edges up to $4 a gallon, people have finally started making these changes. And of course, some leap into unwise purchases (you know how we americans are--any excuse to buy something new!)
We actually can, without making major purchases or selling our houses (yeah, I've even been thinking of that, much as it pains me) change the way we use energy--like our driving habits. I've been avoiding unnecessary trips (in addition, my teeth-jarringly-warped brake rotors mean I avoid using the brakes as much as possible, which causes me to drive a lot more gently--using less gas, thereby).
What's outrageous, though, is that big oil is sitting fatter than ever on its pile of profits, forcing out gas-station owners by greedily grasping for more. Why is it that so few people are paying attention to this? (Or maybe they are, and that's contributing to Bush's free-falling approval rating? Oh, I hope so!) And what's most outrageous about this situation is that the forces of supply and demand are not determining retail gasoline prices. Beyond the market fluctuations affecting crude prices, Big oil is completely in control of the price we pay at the pump. And, don't get me started on the proposed "gas tax holiday" which will accomplish exactly nothing other than increasing our national debt.
The manipulation of prices at the pump became obvious a couple of years ago--the morning news would announce the price of crude, and that afternoon the price of gas at the pump immediately increased. I made the incorrect assumption that gas-station owners were opportunistically cashing in. But as it turns out, Big Oil is fine-tuning its "wholesale" price (that is, what it charges station owners) and controlling the stations' retail prices in a truly Machiavellian way. NPR has done a good job of analyzing all the factors that go into gas prices.
I have a bunch of friends who are into the concept of "peak oil." This is all very well, but nevertheless (IMHO) irrelevant, because we need to make changes in our oil use now, for the sake of the environment, regardless of whether or not we're about to run dry. And despite the fact that I'm feeling the pinch, and am pissed at how Bush & Co. have set the oil companies up for megaprofits and control of our economy, I'm hopeful that perhaps at last we have the incentive to change our ways. Time will tell, I reckon.