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Reporter Shaun Byron and Video Editor Andrew DuPont sound-off on whatever is on their minds, from politics to pop-culture, from movies to the main stream media. Local, national, world-wide? If it's in the media mix, these two are sure to have an opinion on it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How fickle are we?

Toyota is, at for now, halting construction on a new plant (even though it is 90% complete) because they have seen Prius sales drop significantly since gas prices dropped a few weeks ago.

Seriously? Is the American public so fickle that we only care about reducing dependence on oil and better fuel economy when gas is over $2.00 a gallon? I honestly hope the drop is sales more a result of the slumping economy and not a knee-jerk reaction gas prices. For one, hybrid technology is a major step forward for the auto industry and we need to continue to support ways to improve our vehicles. But more importantly, these low gas prices are not going to last. Today again OPEC announced they are slashing production. Prices have already gone back up $0.30 a gallon in my neighborhood. I expect them to be back over $2.00 by mid-January at the latest. I'm hardly an economics expert, but it seems obvious the price plunge was more the result of the sudden stock market collapse than anything else.

The fuel crisis our nation faces has not passed, the coast is not clear from here on out. Believe me I am just as thankful for the lower gas prices as everyone else. I can't remember the last time I got by for two weeks with only $20 worth of gas, but I know realistically things won't stay this way for long. A permanant solution is still a ways off, and we need to keep working towards it.



Blogger El Dia Octavo said...

Americans are not “fickle” but it is true that, collectively, we don’t care about “reducing dependence on oil”. What we care about is the price of gas, propane, electricity, and jet fuel because these prices affect our lives. The question of dependence is irrelevant.

But, since you say you care about this stuff, permit me to suggest that the only mechanism that will reduce oil consumption is price. If gas costs $15 a gallon, people will be more likely to choose a Ford Focus over, for example, a Chevy Tahoe. Until then, it is irrelevant what you or I think about what car companies “should” built. They will build what you want to buy and, right now, nobody wants to drive a dinky little economy car while they can still afford something larger and more comfortable.

Some people worry so much about the cost of gas that they ride bikes. Cool. That means more and cheaper gas for me. If you want to worry about how much you spend, good. Buy a Prius – that is entirely your right. But if you believe that by doing so you are “helping us reduce dependence on oil” then you do not understand how cars are designed, built, and recycled and you really do not understand what causes oil prices, supply, and consumption to change.

But most importantly, what other people drive is none of your business just as what you drive is none of MY business. Frankly, we have more important things to worry about than “dependence on oil”. This is not an issue that can be fixed by politicians, whom, you may have noticed, cannot fix potholes on I-94 or figure out if we are running out of purple spotted armadillos. No amount of laws and regulations and rules are going to do anything but cost people like you and me money – money spent that gets us no value. Let me repeat that: money spent on “reducing oil dependence” will buy us nothing – it will get us NO VALUE. Like “carbon credits”, it is a pointless, useless, waste of time…and energy. Oil dependence will cure itself. Any effort to force it simply misdirects resources from useful employment to useless effort.

Now, as for the stock market and its relationship to oil prices. Oil prices go up and down in relation to demand. If manufacturers are making more products they buy more oil and prices go up. When consumers turn on their furnace, demand goes up. When demand goes down, prices go down. Supplies adjust to prices. The stock market does not move prices; it is a measure of expectations of the profitability of listed companies. That is all. Oil prices might move in relation to expectations of profitability – but can you give me an example?? I thought not. Therefore, avoid making such a pronouncement – if you cannot cite cause and effect it is like throwing horse apples at passing cars: entertaining for the low-brow but not a useful way to pass the time for anyone over the age of eight.

Moreover, the stock market plunge was not “sudden”. It had been coming for years but you did not think so, personally, so you took no action. A great many people saw it coming and took action. Many people warned Congress – over and over and over – but Congress took no action. This is because they are stupid and self-serving, not public serving. But because you did not see it coming and your favorite politician is an idiot does not mean there was some bad juju in play here or that there is a vast conspiracy of rich people who are profiting off your suffering. You didn’t see it coming because you were busy worrying about other things…like whether we are dependent on oil and how many purple spotted armadillos are left.

Personally, I don’t care about where oil comes from or how much is left. Personally, I believe there are too many people on Planet Earth – especially too many Third World people that consume much but contribute little. If you want to control oil dependence, campaign to control birth rates in Pakistan and China and Bongo Congo. They are the reason you are paying more than $20 a week for gas, not General Motors. If you do not understand this, you did not get your money’s worth at college. This, too, is not the fault of anyone but yourself so don’t ask the rest of us to “adjust” to a different lifestyle because the world has too many Third Worlders and you got screwed out of your money at college.

Finally, there is no permanent solution to energy supplies nor will one ever be possible. If you skipped physics in high school in favor of something a bit easier…like social studies…you might not have been educated in concepts like “energy density” and E=MC2. Again, you got gypped. You didn’t get your money’s worth at school. But this, again, is not justification for you to even hope that the rest of the world adjusts to your need for cheap transportation. Son, there is no “crisis” that needs to pass. What needs to pass is your desire that your wants and needs are the responsibility of the rest of us.

You are not the center of the universe. Start thinking like you are one of 6,000,000,000 and you’ll start writing with a bigger, sharper pencil.

January 21, 2009 at 11:28 AM 

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