Friday, August 1, 2008

Sops Of All Sorts II

Gas Prices Decline: A Reason To Feel Better Or...?

I've noticed that around where I live, gas prices at the pump have (after reaching over $4.00 a gallon at just about every place) declined a little to around $3.75-$3.90 or thereabouts at most places. This is not necessarily a reason to feel like the price is going to continue to go down or that everything is going to be hunky dory.

First of all, increased prices at the pump were something we liberals were thinking about for a long time-- in the form of a gas tax. We wanted to reduce consumption and thereby protect the environment and spur the creation of alternative energy sources so we wouldn't have to worry so much about what to do when the oil supplies finally run out, which they are due to within decades from now (although no one knows exactly when it will happen). And the skyrocketing gas prices have indeed reduced consumption. But the thing about the liberal proposal for a gas tax was that the money from the tax was supposed to go back into communities in the form of programs like national healthcare, so the gas tax didn't hit the least-well-off among us as bad-- but rather just got us all to drive less. With the privately-rigged, artificially high oil industry / gas prices we're experiencing now (that I think are the product of monopolization and not of natural market causes), all that extra money made from high prices is going back into the pockets of the oil industry and holders of oil industry stocks. And those industries may claim that they are using some of their profits to develop alternative energy, but they have every selfish reason to hold off releasing alternative energy to the last minute, and may not be the best best judges of how to research alternative energy or of what to do with it. So, to sum up, if prices have gone down a little, it makes consumers less nervous and angry, but all that extra profit is still going only to the oil industry and not to programs to help communities.

Second of all, Democratic popularity right now is riding on a wave of discontent with the Republicans, and part of that is associating the rising gas prices (and a refusal to do anything about them) with the Republicans. I have speculated before that the oil and gasoline industries raised prices completely on their own, and not due to any necessity, either because they realize the oil is running out and want to get the last dimes they can out of the industry for their kids and grandkids (in other words, rich racist white people who are going to want to control the country for their own narrowly selfish benefit, just like we have now), or because the oil industry is secretly starting to acknowledge the reality of problems like global warming and the oil supply running out, and rather than contradict themselves by going back on their previous anti-alternative energy and global-warming-denier stances too overtly, they want the political support for changing things to come from the public-- they want the public to begin to worry that rising gas prices might have something to do with oil running out, so the public will get the government to spend its own money working on alternative energy and fuel efficiency. So if this speculation is all true, the oil industry changing their tune (really their strategy) all of a sudden is a little weird, and may indicate something-- like, for instance, politics. A big election is coming up, and people who are even more conservative ideologues than the people who run the oil industry may have decided to put some behind-closed-doors pressure on the oil industry to ease up the prices a little bit, because they are worried that discontent over prices may hurt John McCain in the upcoming election. In other words, the oil industry may care about profits or about solving the energy problem more than about conservative politics, but there are some conservatives who are so nutso conservative that they only see the country's problems in terms of things like getting another conservative elected at every Presidential election, and they may be people who are able to lean enough on the oil industry to make them sweat. When you look at how corrupt the media and politics are, it's hardly an impossible thing to imagine as being the case.

So the outlook is not necessarily very rosy. As always, we just have to wait a while longer to see more of what happens before we can get a clearer picture.