Who’s to Blame?

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April 28, 2006 at 10:35 am

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4 Comments

This began as a response to my brother’s entry entitled , but quickly grew long-winded enough that it belonged more as a post here.

Apologies for the excessive use of links, but when I hit Wikipedia and other sources so extensively to form a cogent argument, I like to incorporate all those links into the resulting post!

Who is to blame for the increasingly excessive

we are paying at the pumps?

is an easy target, and on the surface a quite viable one, given the profits they’re taking in. The fact remains, they are an EASY target. There are others to blame, and some introspection shows the blame hits very close to home. Further, Big Oil isn’t a strictly American enterprise; here’s the breakdown of the companies usually referred to as “Big Oil”:

(American, based in Dallas, Texas)

(British, based in London, England)

— (British/Dutch, based in The Hague, Netherlands; U.S. subsidiary, Shell Oil Company, is based in Houston, TX)

(French, based in Paris, France)

San Antonio’s native

is a mere drop in the buck…er.. barrel despite being the largest oil refiner in North America, and there are literally scores of other

in the world — the largest, , is headquartered in Dhahran, . Here are some of its “vitals”:

Saudi Aramco is responsible for 99 percent of the (Saudi Arabia) Kingdom’s proven crude oil reserves of 259,200 billion barrels (41.2 109m³) — about a quarter of the world’s total. That is more than double the total of Iraq, the country with the world’s second largest reserves, and nearly 12 times the reserves of the United States. Saudi Aramco produces and exports more crude oil than any other company. Recent production has averaged some 8 million barrels (1,300,000 m³) per day. That is more than twice the output of the next highest producer and nearly five times greater than the largest U.S. oil company.

– Wikipedia

Needless to say, even if the

companies of the , ,

and the

allied to reduce prices below market levels, they’d be cutting their noses off to spite their faces.

They are not even remotely the primary oil producers, yet they are operating in nations that comprise some of the world’s top oil CONSUMERS.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know how and why they could post record profits in that environment, and I don’t think they should be without further scrutiny… but they’re not single-handedly driving the price of oil, either. In other words, Big Oil shares much of its blame with , the union of 11 developing nations (, , , , , , , , ,

and ) whose primary revenue stems from oil exports.

More reading:

Now, before things get uncomfortable, we have a few other sources to blame that pretty much everyone can agree on — the U.S. government.

It’s difficult to know where to even start, with them.

The primary energy policy of the United States of America has always been, with few exceptions (, the , the ), simply this — Use It!

And use it, we Americans and our economy, do extremely well:

According to the Department of Energy, the United States currently uses nearly 20 million barrels of oil a day, importing 55 percent of it.

– National Resources Defense Council

One major aspect of the U.S. government’s energy policy is to exert our (some say “democratic”) influence on (some say “developing” or “under-developed”) nations like Iraq, and to “protect” oil rich nations like

and

when they’re threatened by a local bully (Saddam Hussein).

This aspect of our energy policy means the U.S. military must expend significant amounts of energy (oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, etc.) engaged in protracted conflicts in the oil-abundant Persian Gulf region, not to mention enormous amounts of money and a not insignificant number of , as well.

So, we’ve blamed Big Oil, OPEC, and the U.S. Government. Who’s next?

Ah, yes, , especially American automakers, for their love affair with manufacturing SUVs, pickups and other vehicles (, et. al.) that seem to laugh in the face of poor .

But wait a minute, the automakers build what they hope CONSUMERS will buy.

If anyone is to blame for the prevalence of fuel inefficient SUVs, pickups and other vehicles on the American roadways, it’s all the consumers who bought them… like Justin and I, and the 2001 Ford F-150 Supercrew 4×4 we own. The F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the U.S.A. for 28 years, and the best single-year sales for it were a jaw-dropping 9,395,118 vehicles in 2004 (See )

Nevermind that the 2004 Ford F-150 got, at best, 17mpg city/20mpg highway (), and more likely just 12mpg city/16mpg highway (. And those fuel economy values, not to mention the suffocating amount of emissions (pollution), have remained largely unchanged all the way to the !

WHY?

Like it or not, we humans often behave like pack animals, reacting as a pack does — someone in the lead or outer “fringe” goes on the “alert” and most of the pack ignores the warning, surging forward.

If the threat is real and dire, a few in the pack are picked off and, just maybe, the pack is a little more cautious, for a time.

But we’re really just animals, and so we keep on following the pack/herd, even if it is toward a precipice and we actually do know better than to follow our neighbor off that cliff. I know this sounds alarmist, and will no doubt be written off as such (see “pack mentality”), but I think our rampant fossil fuel energy consumption is that cliff. Where once humanity had the threat of nuclear annihilation (not exactly gone, but more or less forgotten; we have such short-term memories), we now have the threat of a radical change in our economies and societies due to our absolute dependence on oil and other fossil fuels… which happen to in large part be deposited in regions of the world governed by leaders, governments and/or regimes far less “stable” than our own (if ours even qualifies as such.)

There is no band-aid, quick fix solution.

Big problems require big solutions, and a word Americans really hate to use (because our politicians use it so often and for such improper purposes) — sacrifice. If we all sacrificed something (time, money, effort, ease/minor convenience), to do our part, in some small way, it would help far more than it would hurt.

And if those of us with more to sacrifice did so, it would offset those who have far less to sacrifice (and thus, for whom any small sacrifice is a great hardship).

I’m not preaching any single solution to anyone, but the sheer number and variety of solutions makes me a little frustrated to hear all the “Someone needs to fix this!” chatter and so little, “Well, f*** it, I’m going to do this tiny-little-thing because, dammit, I’m a part of this too!”

Some of the many solutions we, as individuals, can do:

Pick ONE of the above that suits your physical and financial abilities, lifestyle, needs and goals. Adapt to that, and maybe in time you’ll be ready and able to adopt ANOTHER, and another, and… whoa, suddenly the pack is following behaviors that aren’t quite so debilitating to society, the environment and the economy (because, in case you missed it, being dependent on a limited, non-renewable resource that is largely controlled by foreign powers/entities that you consider “unfriendly” and “unstable” is never a good thing!)

End massive rant which I could have communicated far more succinctly by simply shouting –

WE . ARE . ALL . A . PART . OF . THE . PROBLEM !!!!!

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4 Comments

April 28, 2006

@

Nice post.

I agree completely.

You might try to catch “Too Hot Not to Handle” on HBO, a special about global warming, if you haven’t already.

It paints a vivid picture of the effects of global warming and offers some of the advice you’ve given to lessen, and someday reverse, those effects.

I’m intrigued with the advances in harnessing

as well.

The last paragraph in the previous link echos a statement from the HBO special about how a 100 square mile array of solar panels in the southwest desert could theoretically power America.

What are we waiting for???

April 29, 2006

@

I have to admit I marvel that people think oil is so expensive – drop for drop, oil is .

Which is pretty astounding, considering how much more it’s used for besides gas, not to mention the rapidly dwindling supply of the stuff… if anything, it should cost a great deal more than it does (which may do wonders for encouraging hybrids and getting more people interested in energy alternatives – too many folks only give a damn about an issue once it affects their wallets).

Anyhow, excellent and highly informative post!

April 29, 2006

@

Aye, but (most of us, anyway) are not addicted to milk, bottled water, or even beer… and even those who are, probably aren’t guzzling it by the GALLON like our vehicles do.

I’ve often wondered if Starbucks would still be in business if people knew how much it’s costing them per gallon… because I know at least some of them are consuming it by the gallon(s), at least over the course of a week.

April 30, 2006

@

Cycling has become a big part of my life.

A week ago, I finished a tough 30 mile bike ride in a hilly area of northwest San Antonio.

When looking at the GPS track from my bike ride, I’m amazed at how far I’ve travelled.

It’s an eye-opening realization that riding a bicycle is a bona-fide means of REAL transportation.

I wish our highways and roads were more “bicycle friendly” so that cycling could become a real alternative for many trips that are a reasonable distance from home.

Perhaps someday….

Agree with your sentiments 100%.

We’re all part of this incredibly serious problem.

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