Wasting Costly Oil Imperils National Security

April 30, 2006 | By | Reply More

Today, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said:

Gasoline prices have soared an average of 60 cents a gallon in less than a month because suppliers are unable to keep up with demand, a situation that could persist up to three more years.

Bodman went on to suggest that stablilizing Iraq is a key to getting prices under control.

My reaction: 

1) This administration has a long track record for being less than honest with its estimates of time and money.  This three-year number is not evidence-based.  Bodman’s “three year” estimate is designed to stave off panic in the street.   This number is only designed to keep the American SUV producers from promptly going bankrupt.

2) Our thirst for oil (we gulp down 5,000 gallons per second) combined with our fragile oil supply lines (we’re one hurricane or one blown up oil tanker from $5/gallon oil) puts the U.S. economy in great danger.  

3) Republicans often argue that we cause massive losses of jobs and we put a drag on the economy by doing things like imposing safety or environmental regulations on businesses, paying out welfare benefits or allowing people to sue a corporation for making a dangerous product or suing when a hospital’s negligence kills a loved ones.   Their concern, of course is that these things make goods and services more expensive.  But these “drags” on the economy shrink to nothing in relation to the current jacked up price of gasoline.  Gasoline goes into the cost of everything else that is sold, including food (the average item of food travels more than 1,000 miles from the point of production to your plate).  To put it in perspective:  when Bill Clinton floated the idea of imposing a 7.5 cent per gallon tax on each gallon of gas, the republicans were furious.  Yet the current so-called free market has cranked up the cost of fuel 60 cents in the past month alone. Clinton’s tax would have reduced global warming.  The recent increase has profited oil executives and our middle eastern suppliers.

4) We could do something about this problem by educating consumers and regulating motor vehicle manufacturers.  For example, if new cars averaged 45 mpg and new light trucks averaged 34 mpg, we would save 1,507 gallons of gasoline per second

5)  Conservation should be an obvious priority–well, obvious for anyone not constantly being wined and dined by oil lobbyists.  Here’s why it’s obvious:  The supply/demand curve is sacred to many republicans–I suspect that many of them keep copies under their pillows.  To keep the high price of gas from trashing the economy, we need that price to be lower.  That can be done by increasing supplies of oil (but this isn’t possible in this age of peak oil) or decreasing demand–the “C” word. The most obvious way to conserve is to restrict the further creation of huge personal vehicles that get only 7 or 8 miles per gallon on real-life streets.  The oil we waste on such oversized vehicles compels us to send money that could have been used to solve massive domestic issues to countries that despise us.  Energy is energy.  Gasoline wasted is energy wasted–much of our electricity is generated by burning oil.  We don’t like to waste electricity, do we?  Then we do we acquiesce in wasting oil? Check out the following from the Sierra Club :

Switching from driving an average car to a 13mpg SUV for one year would waste more energy than if you…

  • Left your refrigerator door open for 6 years
  • Left your bathroom light burning for 30 years or
  • Left your color television turned on for 28 years.

Just imagine how much less dependent on foreign oil we could have been had this president (and the past few presidents before him) proclaimed that national security depends on lowering our dependence on an obviously diminishing stock of oil.  Just think how much less a crisis we’d be in had our current fleet not included tens of millions of gas gulping behemoths, most of which will continue to be on the road for the next decade.  Just think of the millions of gallons of lowered demand that we could have by making mass transit more accessible for the middle class, by replacing insulation and outdated HVAC equipment, by car pooling.   It would truly be like “making” oil.  But it’s not yet macho or sexy to conserve, I suppose.

I’m still waiting for the president to frankly discuss the concept of “peak oil” with the citizens.  I’m still waiting for an honest national dialogue on the massive restructuring of our economy required by the arrival of “peak oil.”   We’re getting there slowly, but at the pace we’re going, we’ll won’t end up having an honest dialogue until we finally have it over a campfire lit by the last tree of our national forest.


Category: Energy, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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