Sunday, June 08, 2008

Gas at $4.00 and Rising!

Who would have thunk it? Oil at $138 per barrel and gasoline at $4.00 per gallon and rising fast. Apparently our government and our automobile and energy industries had no idea such a thing could happen, since none of them planned for it. Too bad for those of us who don't have so much money that we can be indifferent to the price of anything.

Don't think for one minute that our government and our automobile and energy industries should get a free pass on this. They are all responsible for the pain we are feeling, because they have acted in concert for many years to ensure the U.S. had a huge appetite for energy and did little to encourage conservation or find alternative energy sources. We should be outraged.

The fact is that other countries in our world have been much more prepared for the very predictable tightening of energy supplies. Europe and Japan lead in producing fuel-efficient vehicles, using nuclear power and alternative energy sources, and in conservation. They adjusted to the obvious, but we did not. We wallowed in cheap energy for many years, and now we are going to burn in the fire of very expensive energy until we can get our act together. "Smart" America has been really stupid when it comes to energy.

It is going to be really expensive to fix our energy-related problems. Our homes and cars are too big and inefficient. Our laws favor the industries that have failed to act on our behalf. Developing and installing the new technologies needed to save us will take a long time, during which we will suffer financially and in our standard of living. All of this is due largely to poor planning by those we have trusted to act on our behalf.

Will we learn from this sad experience? Will we ask our government to anticipate problems and give us strong advice about what we need to do, even if it is painful? The next year or two will be telling in that respect, because we have other big problems to solve. The war, Medicare, Social Security, education. Each of these can impact us as hard as gas prices do now. Will the next president and congress take these on or bury their heads in the sand, waiting for a crisis and not doing anything until it's too late? We'll see.

1 comment:

ThomasLB said...

The gas shortages thirty years ago should have been the wake up call- but weren't.

My guess is the current crisis will be seen by those in power as a wonderful business opportunity. They will use this as an excuse to open environmentally sensitive areas to oil drilling and to shunt big subsidies to industries that don't need it. Some people (aka "The Campaign Doners") will come through this recession and energy crisis much wealthier than they went in.

I think the Reagan presidency was a power shift much greater than most people realize. It was during his reign that government quit working for the people and began devoting all of their time to making the wealthy wealthier. Government no longer cares if we can't afford gas, can't afford our medicine, or don't want our kids to die in Iraq- as long as the right people are making money, they are happy campers.

The next election will be crucial: do we want to be shafted by a man with a rich, baritone voice, or do we want to be shafted by a pasty little pudding of a man who trends towards the nasal? I pray we will make the right choice.