Wake up, America … and stop looking for a scapegoat
Rising gasoline prices are all over the news … multiple times a day, at least in the United States. People are getting so upset that Congress decided to question oil company executives about it.
“You have to sense what you’re doing to us – we’re on the precipice here, about to fall into recession,” said Sen Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) “Does it trouble any one of you – the costs you’re imposing on families, on small businesses, on truckers?”
This sounds very nice and populist … he’s looking out for the little guy. I like Durbin and I think he generally is looking out for the general public (even if they don’t know it or appreciate it). This is an oversimplification — selling gasoline barely makes a profit (selling crude oil, on the other hand…). To say they are ‘imposing’ a gasoline price is plain wrong. Firstly, crude oil and gasoline are two different, yet obviously linked, products for sale on the market. The crude that company X produces isn’t necessarily the same that the same company refines or that the same company sells to you. Depending on where it’s produced, where the infrastructure is, etc., company X’s crude might eventually end up as gasoline in China, while, here in the States, the gasoline you purchase from company X, was once crude from a different company. Secondly, this is a global problem of supply/demand that goes far beyond the United States. Less than 10% of the world’s petroleum is produced by these major corporations — the vast majority is from the so-called ‘petrostates’, the national oil companies around the world (joint ventures among public and state-owned companies complicate these figures for sure; I honestly don’t know how, please comment if you have a reference).
So, maybe we need a completely different way of doing commerce … I don’t know. Let’s talk about that — but, this interrogation by Congress does nothing except help them save face with a frustrated public that wants to point to a single or small group of people. An enemy with a face. That’s the easy way out. Yeah, blame that guy. It’s all his fault. This is classic American blame-placing … “Hey, it can’t possibly be my fault!! It’s the government! Corporations! Conservatives! Liberals! Commies! Gays! That guy down the street! I hate that guy!”
I would argue that we have a culture of consistent blame-placing on anything but ourselves. So, am I giving oil companies a free ride? Of course not. I am more than happy to attribute a lot of our problems to major corporations … no doubt about it.
Maybe I’m being mean, but gas prices are high? Tough sh*t. We are going to have to deal with it. I’m convinced that the only way American energy consumption will change — and I mean really change — is if it hits people in their wallets. This is unfortunate, and maybe I’m just pessimistic.
So, how do we deal with it? Sure, let’s talk about ways to tax those producing, how it should work, what the impact would be, whether or not that revenue can be transferred to non-hydrocarbon technologies, and so on … but let’s also talk about the side that is consuming . It’s not a dichotomy. It’s not all or nothing. It’s complex. I know Americans don’t like complex and nuanced problems. And I know they certainly don’t like to collectively* look in the mirror and get real about consumption.
Wake up. This is real.
* ‘collectively’ is the key term here … I know there are plenty of individuals who have come to this realization