By David L. Brown
Congress recently raked oil company executives over the coals about high oil prices. I am not entirely sympathetic toward the Lords of Big Oil, but to see members of Congress pandering for the cameras while pointing fingers at the oil companies, the Bush administration, and anyone else except themselves is, well, just disgusting.
The oil biggies made a pretty spirited attempt to defend themselves, pointing out that it is that very Congress that has passed law after law to prevent oil exploration and development across our fair land. And this illustration shows the percentages of present gas prices that are due to oil company profits vs. government taxes on average. The rest, of course, comes from the underlying world price of oil, which is a fungible natural resource that is immune to local price control and for the most part in the hands of greedy OPEC member states.
It’s easy to see that if we are going to point fingers about high gas prices, the supposedly greedy oil companies are not exactly acting the role of Jesse James or Pretty Boy Floyd here. In fact, the costs of buying, transporting, refining, delivering and marketing the oil as gasoline are enormous, and the largest share of all goes into the pockets of the America-hating thugs that run places like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela.
It was our Congress that not only has systematically blocked development of oil resources here at home, but has also allowed Big Auto to slip through a convenient loophole in the CAFE mileage standards to keep producing gas guzzling SUVs labeled as “light trucks.” It is also the same Congress that has failed to fully support research and development of alternative energy systems, that has consistently voted to support evil regimes such as the Saudis, and that has hindered efforts to respond to the threat of global warming that is in large part due to the excessive reliance on fossil fuels to power our economy.
In its typical fashion, Congress seems inspired to punish Big Oil for high gas prices by decreeing special “windfall profit” taxes. Gosh, how will the oil companies pay for that? Well, perhaps by reducing their investments in developing more efficient systems, alternative energy, or undertaking other forward looking initiatives. Or, most likely, by raising prices even more to pass along the cost to consumers. Oh, perhaps the all-wise Congress will see that one coming and pass a law preventing them from passing along the tax. Then Big Oil will definitely have to cut back on R&D, or possibly give up their profits and go into bankruptcy. That will solve a lot of problems — not!
The only winner here will be the members of Congress, who will earn plaudits from naive voters while getting their greedy trotters on even more money to squander on Pork Barrel programs aimed at impressing even more voters in an endless cycle of political chicanery.
Washington just can’t accept that the problems of high oil prices are global, economic, and without simple solutions. They are based on the simple, long-predicted fact that the planet has reached Peak Oil and that supplies can no longer ramp up to meet demand. They want to just “fix” the problem — not really for its own sake but merely in order to get credit for doing so — even though the proposed “fixes” are nothing more than very large imaginary Band-Aids or puffs of reflected smoke seen in mirrors of political hokum.
Besides punishing the oil companies for a situation which Congress itself is not least responsible for creating, some of our “leaders” have called for a temporary halt to federal taxes on gasoline. That is about as likely to occur as flying pigs or snowflakes in Hades, because the tax is an enormous source of money to keep feeding that giant Pork Processing Machine we call our government.
Others have suggested tapping our Strategic Oil Reserve to increase supply, no doubt envisioning that this vital reserve will be given away for a song to make those happy voters smile. That would be equivalent to national suicide, an idea too idiotic to be given even the least consideration — although our role models in Washington are surely doing exactly that. (Observation: Being an idiot does not preclude one from being a member of Congress, and in some cases might actually be a prerequisite.)
Of course, the real solution is to develop alternatives that are based on renewable energy rather than the flood of cheap oil that is now at an end. Hmm, that might take a while. Say about 35 years? Yeah, that’s probably reasonable, so let’s do the math. The problem exists in the present year of 2008. That means all we have to do is start in 1973, the year after the first oil shock (should have) made us aware of the need for action, and then today we will be in great shape. Simple, right. First we’ll take H. G. Wells’s time machine back to that earlier time and turn our leaders in Congress loose to roll up their sleeves and get the job done…
Oh, wait, you say there is no such thing as a time machine? Umm, well, then I guess we are screwed. No other option for Congress but to blame the oil companies and point fingers everywhere but at itself. Sorry, America, we have some big problems here — but don’t look at us.
Congress channels the words of Bart Simpson: “I wasn’t there; I didn’t do it; and you can’t prove anything!” (So keep voting us back into office so that we can keep on not doing whatever it is that we didn’t do.) Umm, is there something wrong with this picture?