The Price of Gas

Forty-eight hours in, and the first ever survey has already collected over 20 responses. Thanks, people. To the best of my knowledge, this kind of study has not been done before, so we’re all engaging in a little scientific frontiersmanship. To those who have not yet done so, please take the survey by clicking on the icon below:

While you’re at it, there’s another group doing a survey of blog readers (with different goals from mine). If interested, you can take their survey here. A description of their project is given here.

As I was away this weekend, I was not able to reflect on the anniversary of the events of September 11. Not the events of 4 years ago, but rather those of 1973 when US-backed General Augusto Pinochet toppled the democratically elected government of Chile and began his lengthy reign of terror atop that besieged nation. US imperial apologists are, of course, still in the game, sounding ever more ludicrous with each passing failure of their favourite kakistocracy. Darth Vadum has the nerve to comment that Pinochet “did Chileans a service when he overthrew the communist Salvador Allende, rescuing the Chilean people from tyranny”. If there was ever a blog post that so clearly revealed the delusional nature of rightwing apologists, that was surely it.

So while I was in Montreal this past weekend, I learned that residents had recently taken to the streets to protest the upward surge in gas prices. Of course, it’s fundamentally ludicrous to hold the city, provincial or even federal governments responsible for the pricing of a global commodity controlled largely by foreign powers… but whatever turns your crank, I say. (Pun intended.) Protesting the pricing of a commodity suggests in part that one has a right to this particular commodity, and I have a couple of things to say about that.

Let’s begin with Brother Margolis’s most recent commendable column, in which he summarizes Bush’s monumental failures. He ends the article with the line, “Iraq’s oil exports plummeted because of the U.S. invasion, contributing to today’s shortages and high prices.” The events in Iraq are one source of variable oil pricing, as is the tragedy in New Orleans, in which the hurricane damaged or forced off-line a series of important refining and processing plants. There is, of course, a political component, as well. OPEC began flexing its muscles in the 1970s when they realized they could coerce powerful governments simply by modulating their pricing strategies.

But ultimately it comes down to supply and demand. The demand for oil has never been greater and will only accelerate, mostly due to the expanding industrial economies in India and China. When those two countries are producing at the same rate as Japan, Germany and America, we will really see an energy crisis. The supply of oil, meanwhile, remains in question. The rightwing idealogues are fond of citing a growing number of reports showing that there is plenty of oil within the Earth’s crust, enough to sustain our global economy well into the next century. This might very well be true, I don’t know. But I do know that the easily obtained oil is almost gone. The rest of it is under oceans, under tundra, soaked into shale or otherwise geologically unavailable, given our present technology and level of desperation.

This price of gas in North America is not going down anytime soon. In fact, I would argue that it has been artificially depressed for years, and is only now approaching its proper level. Those of us who don’t drive are not immune to this fact. Oil fuels the trucks that bring produce into our cities, for example. No amount of conservation is going to eliminate our dependence. The artificial low price of gas is, I believe, responsible for North America’s irrational reliance on truck fleets for transportation. Freight trains and waterways are comparatively unused in this country, yet such media are more efficient. I predict that in 20 years, barring remarkable advancements in internal combustion technology, North American truck fleets will be substantially reduced and air travel will be prohibitively expensive. Oil is not a right, it’s a luxury we have become far too dependent upon.

The price of gas may drop below a dollar sometime in the new year, but it won’t stay there long. The Amazing Rayskin has spoken!