Fuel Prices Changing Habits, Crushing the Economy

by jhwygirl

Just going to throw out some thoughts here – –

I’ve noticed for the last few weeks, since gas start hovering at $3.90+, that there has been quite a reduction in traffic. Even during commuter hours…at the very least, commuter times when traffic is usually higher (say 4:30 to 6) have been reduced to quieter roads sooner. I really notice it in the mornings. I’m used to waking up with the sun, but as for actually getting up, I usually hold off on most mornings until traffic starts picking up (used to be about 6:30 a.m.). Nowadays, traffic doesn’t pick up until at 7:15 or so, so that informal alarm clock had to be traded in for a real one.

Traffic is also slower. I tend to drive around town like an old lady. You don’t find me zipping around, and for years now I’ve had people riding my bumper, pissed off that I’m not flooring the gas, stop sign to stop sign. No longer. People are content, it seems, to drive the speed limits. I find that nice.

I have to say, fuel prices by and large haven’t changed what I do – yet. I try not to drive much, and considering the mileage I got on my old car, my new one that’s getting 26-28 mpg is like driving on farts. That’s going to change, eventually – natural gas prices are going to go through the roof this winter and that’s where isn’t going to hit my pocketbook. That sucks. I have steadily decreased my NWE bill over the last 4 years, reaching as rock bottom as I can get. My house is old, and the energy bill is pretty damned high, as compared to what I might pay for a newer-constructed placed of the same size. Knowing that the bill is going to go to what is likely going to be unmanageable levels is going to suck. Maybe if I’m lucky, I do get to purchase something by winter….

Flooding in the mid-west is going to deal another blow. There’d already been plenty of talk of rising food costs due to higher fuel costs and increased use of ethanol (corn). Food (cows, chickens) eat food (corn). Now the larger portion of the corn crop has been decimated, along with a whole bunch of other foodstuffs. Repurcussive effects have yet to be fully realized.

Will the “R” word turn into the “D” word? (there, I said it)

The whole world is suffering under the weight of this fuel situation. OPEC said today it was going to increase output by 200,000 barrels a day. Yawn. Hardly a dent. Prices promptly rose.

…and so McCain has flip-flopped on off-shore drilling. In late May, during a campaign stop in Wisconsin, McCain said that drilling off our coasts would be a waste of time and do nothing to resolve our broader energy needs. From Impudent Ways:

I’ll also say that during that town hall, someone asked the senator about off-shore drilling (to thunderous applause). McCain answered that not only was it a states-rights issues, it was also a short term solution to a long term problem, and that American ingenuity and renewable resources must be the future of American energy policy — rather than fossil fuels which are not only wallowing in the tar pits but dragging us, our economy and our foreign policy down with them.

I thought, “Now here’s the maverick thing everyone keeps talking about.” Telling a room full of Middle American Republicans that the idea they find so appealing (namely, drilling off coastal states like Florida and California, ahem) is… Not a good idea. He sounded honest, gutsy, and sure that he was right.

But on Thursday, McCain changed his tune and marched with lame-duck Bush Jr. in his call to drill off our coasts. I remember hearing Bush Jr. commanding Congress to lift the ban “before you head home for the 4th of July,” or something like that. Another yawn, that one, it seems, from Congress. Even Ah-nold wasn’t buying it.

Drilling isn’t going to solve a damned thing. The world’s economy will collapse if our only solution (“our” being the world’s) is to sit around and call on OPEC to release more oil and to call for more drilling. Drilling doesn’t happen overnight, or even if a couple of months. American doesn’t even have the refineries to handle more crude – and those take years to get online too.

Drilling is the equivalent of providing heroine addicts methadone. Doesn’t solve a frickin’ thing. The U.S. Government and its taxpayers are subsidizing big oil, they’re taking their windfall profits and handing them back out to their investors, instead of investing in cleaner technology, and leaving Americans – like the mortgage bankers left Americans – holding the bag. It’s been going on for decades. And the bag, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t just empty, its full of a steaming old pile of crap – and those investors are laughing all the way to the bank with their big ol’ bag of $$$$.

  1. goof houlihan

    “Not drilling” isn’t going to solve anything either. There’s no leadership from Congress or from the executive on the energy issue, and there hasn’t been except from lobbyists. I’m sure McCain’s “flip flop” as you call it, reflects the thoughts of the American people as they fill up their tank.

    Could the recession turn into a depression? Well, the floods aren’t quite the dust bowl. But “the long emergency” anticipates the equivalent of a post nuclear war world, with tens of millions, if not a hundred million, dead on the north american continent.

    I’m certain that flip flopping on nuclear, hydroelectric, and off shore drilling, and whatever dirty coal gasification and oil shale processing, will all be natural reactions to the long emergency’s depression and near apocalypse. When people are dying for the lack of energy and fuel driven agriculture and medicine the luxury of environmentalism will be lost.

    In his preface to the 1950s post nuclear war novel, “Alas Babylon” Pat Frank recalls a friend saying, “what a depression that would make”. He wrote his book in reaction, saying, “I don’t think he had any idea of what the “depression” would look like.

    Those wishing to hasten some energy apocalypse, thinking it will be handy to make us all drive a Prius and live in a soviet union style stacked box, don’t have any idea of what the post oil world really will mean and what they are actually wishing for.

  2. according to most leading oil exploration geophysicists oil extraction potential peaked permanently in 2002 and the remaining potential will be much more expensive to extract. once a commodity becomes limited it is very tempting for investors to speculate on price increases since the curve of downward supply should guarantee upward demand therby virtually guaranteeing speculative profits over the long haul. panic & politically driven election year hystrionics, while tempting to listen to, are virtually meaningless in the big picture.

  3. What’s with the Soviet Union stacked box thing? Usu. that’s a result of deregulated housing markets, like Houston. You know, build a huge, massive building out of cheap materials and sell the units as condos at outrageous prices…that’s the free market, baby!

  4. There’s nothing desirable about running out of easily accessible oil, but there is something desirable about hastening the transition into an energy economy that can survive in world in which oil production is extremely curtailed. I think that’s what people are getting at when they’re cheering for higher gas prices. We need that kick in the butt … before it turns into something worse.

    I personally don’t blame anyone but myself for our country’s oil dependency. I could get rid of the car, but I’m just not willing to. It’s the consumers that are driving the prices, not so much the investors or the producers.

  5. Mayor of Mayhem

    Renewable energy is homeland security! I’m getting that tattoed on my forehead. Solar, wind, and yes even nuclear have to be looked at as options. Energy independance is the answer. Let’s stop sending money to people who hate us.
    We can create the products the rest of the world needs. China only builds what they can copy from someone else and Japan just builds our stuff only smaller.
    What’s the short term answer? I don’t know maybe we should all be driving those goddamn french fry oil cars, or electric pieces of crap. I saw a Hybrid Escalade the other day, it still looked like a giant American sled.
    I’m tired of being held over the oil barrel. Americans sent a man to the moon. Guys in prison brew alcohol in their toilets. Why can’t we make a car that runs on something other than gasoline? Screw Exxon Mobile, let them choke on that sh*t

  6. I don’t know that I believe that we (the world, the USA) can eliminate our need for oil – but having our defense rely on the same fuel as our domestic needs seems foolhardy. Especially when the Middle East holds the cards on pricing (someone should explain that one to me, given that we get 2/3 of our crude from Canada and Mexico). America is going to suffer tremendously when a choice has to be made. We know what it is – and crippling the domestic America when that decision needs to be made doesn’t leave much to defend, does it?

    There is no short-term answer….I take that back. I think the only short-term answer we realistically have is innovation.

    It sure in the hell isn’t drilling.

  7. goof houlihan

    It IS drilling, among other ideas. And it’s NOT ideology, but good ole american ingenuity, which has always been driven by…ambition and the drive to make a buck.

    We must be willing to turn capitalists and free markets loose, for ethanol, for methanol, for oil drilling, for nuclear, for hydroelectric, for wind and tidal and solar, etc. I have always wanted the great “moon race” idea, although the “NASA” ideal leaves me a little cold. I prefer the… Edison, Fulton, Ericcson model, inventors who are encouraged to do science and keep the spoils of their inventions.

    And we must look at tradeoffs. I’d prefer hydroelectric, and it’s effects on fish, to huge coal fired plants and their effects on fish (through acid rain) AND the climate, eh? I’d prefer some shredded tweet, poor birdies, from wind energy, I’d prefer getting rid of protectionism and welcoming foreign producers of ethanol rather than a give everyone everything farm bill, certainly.

    What kind of leadership is out there providing this? Not Ron Paul, what a laugh. Not Bobama, not McCain. They’re to busy pandering to their bases, and aren’t we all just lovin it. As the guy I agree with more than I thought I would Daniel Nairn says, hey, all I gotta do is look in the mirror.

    Innovation is a long term answer. Doing more of what is technologically doable NOW is the short term answer. .

    We dont’ need more pie in the sky, like we get from the governor on coal gasification, or from the President with “hydrogen”, no, we need pragmatic, let the chips fall and devil take the hindmost solutions now, with a man on the moon project for renewable sources and mid timeline solutions like coal to gas.

    Where will the capital from these come from? We don’t have the excess might we wasted in Viet Nam or are wasting now in Iraq. We don’t have the boomer women ready to double our productivity. We are going to have to tap untapped resources and refocus away from Walmart consumerism and towards spending on energy producing infrastructure, and you know, that will mean, jhwygirl, much less buying, and a lot more…”energy war bonds”, and a lot higher…energy prices to pay for the investment.

    Soviet boxes, Jay. Those weren’t built by free enterprise. They’re the product of centralized planning.

  1. 1 How ‘Bout Them Steelers? « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] He’s flip-flopped on off-shore drilling, and I’ve kept my commenting to a minimum (this one post included a reference). He’s flip-flopped on Social Security privatization, on defense […]

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