By David L. Brown
Yesterday I wrote about the members of our hapless Congress and their almost complete inability to do anything but point fingers of blame and politicize everything under the Sun while posturing for the TV cameras and trying to take credit for all kinds of phony BS. I was focusing on the “problem” of high gas prices, something that is the result of natural economic forces.
The Oil Peak, no matter how much everyone seems to want to deny it like ostriches with their heads in the sand, has almost certainly arrived. World oil production can no longer rise to meet demand, and according to a basic law of economics, when demand rises beyond the available supply, the price will be bid up until the demand is quenched. It is as sure as the morning sunrise, and there is nothing that can be done about it except to either pay the price or forego buying the product.
Now I read that the members of our House of Representatives have voted 324 to 84 in favor of taking direct action to deal with $4 gasoline. The action they demand (and remember that most members of the House are attorneys) is to sue the bastards. Actually, to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to force them to turn back the clock and make the good times roll again with lots of cheap oil.
Unfortunately, some legislators seem to think they have the power to change even the laws of economics and nature through the power of legislation. I am reminded of the (perhaps apocryphal) story of a Tennessee state representative some years ago who is alleged to have introduced a bill to change the value of the mathematical number Pi from an inconvenient irrational figure (3.14159….) to the nice round figure 3.00. (That apparently didn’t get too far, although it might even be taught in some schools today alongside intelligent design, but never mind.) It’s a great idea, since it makes it much easier to calculate the area of a circle (although somewhat inaccurately) and easily perform other otherwise difficult math calculations. If only legislators could actually change natural laws, what a wonderful world it would be.
Don’t worry, the Congressmen who have voted to sue OPEC probably don’t really think that will do any good — they just want to impress the clueless voters back home so that they will keep on returning them to office term after term. It’s all about politics as usual and keeping the old Pork flowing to the dulcet sounds of “Roll Out the Barrel” played by a quartet of kazoos and jew’s harps. And if you can’t provide those barrels of pork, just spread blame about something and pretend to be solving insoluble problems.
Somehow I am on the email list of Sen. Mitch McConnell, and he wrote to me today about the subject of high gas prices. McConnell is one of those few legislators who wants to do something concrete about the problem of declining oil resources. A bill he has drafted (S.2958, the American Energy Production Act) would, in the words of his email: “increase domestic exploration for oil, encourage the development of alternative energy sources, and create good jobs here in America — all while lowering energy costs.”
Sounds like a good idea, right? Spot-on I’d say, but wait…
“Unfortunately,” Sen. McConnell adds, “the last time I introduced this bill, partisanship reared its ugly head and only one Democrat voted for it.”
McConnell is a Republican, you see, and in our Congress total war has been declared between the two parties. Nevermind that all of them, whether Democrat or Republican, have (theoretically) been elected to represent the collective best interests of the American people. But no, most of them are there representing the best interests of, first themselves, and second their sacred political parties, all with the solid support of lobbyists and special interest groups that provide a flood of money and perks.
This is an atrocity and most Americans know it. Today, according to a running opinion poll, just 18.4 percent of our citizenry approve of the Congress, while 75 percent disapprove. It might surprise you to learn that the same poll shows George W. Bush with a 30.8 percent approval rating. Congress, it seems, is viewed somewhere down there in the same general stratum as sleazy used car salesmen, prostitutes, industry flacks and drug dealers.
To paraphrase Henry Higgins, why can’t a politician be more like a human being? These are supposed to be the leaders of our nation, and they act like participants in a barroom brawl, a race riot, or a guerrilla war. When is it going to end? Well, we know the answer don’t we, and that is that members of Congress are destined to continue to play politics as usual until there is nothing left of our country to fight over.
So we know that suing OPEC won’t do anything except to produce sound bites and electioneering snippets for politicians. After all, OPEC has no control over how much oil is left in the ground or how difficult it will be to extract, or what the demand will be from emerging economies such as China that have mega-bucks to spend on the stuff. Sadly, though, the facts have been there all along for anyone to see, whether politician, oil mogul, Arab sheik or government economist. It was spelled out by M. King Hubbert over a half century ago when he accurately predicted Peak Oil. But was he listened to? No, he was treated like one of those mentally deranged individuals who used to walk around wearing sandwich boards declaring that the end of the world is nigh. Nobody wanted to have him raining on their parade!
Well, Hubbert wasn’t deranged and now that the end really is nigh for cheap and plentiful oil, our political leaders can do nothing but point fingers at the opposite party, the administration, the Arabs, and that suspicious looking man over there behind the tree. Sigh. Sometimes it makes you feel like shedding tears for the future of our nation.
As my readers know, I am a contrarian who believes that we actually need these higher oil prices. We need them because otherwise there will never be any significant change until it is far too late — no rapid movement toward renewable and alternate energy sources, no premium on efficiency and conservation, no massive investments in future energy security. Unless those changes are made (and it is far past time already), the world economy and especially that of the United States would run off a cliff. It may already be too late to turn things around, but at least the incentive is now there in the form of higher oil prices.
Four dollar gas is a strong signal for our nation to get moving with change. Five dollar gas will be an even clearer sign, and at six, seven or eight dollars we will really know that the good times are over at last. Meanwhile, will Congress still be pointing fingers, laying blame on everybody and their crazy uncles, and crafting faux solutions aimed at getting sound bites on the evening news? Well, yeah. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said long ago that “nothing changes but change itself.” In Congress, not even change seems to change; it just keeps rebooting itself in the same endless pattern of corruption and conceit — and nothing is ever their fault, it’s always the other guy.