Gas Prices and Fisking

Every so often, a piece I wrote in 2005 about gas prices gets people leaving snide comments. I thought I’d fisk today‘s, ’cause I’m feelin’ snarky.

Lets see we can go to mars. We can build a space station. You kind of get the idea.

Sure do. I work in manned spaceflight. None of this means anything, not even considering that the International Space Station is managed out of Houston, a notable oil city. Your point?

MB comes out with a car that is the size of my shoe and it only gets 35miles per gal. So why can’t we make a car that get 60 to 70 miles per gallon??? I have a 2 seater sports car that has a supper charger on it and I get 29MPG on the highway.

None of that is internally consistent. I drive a Subaru Impreza WRX wagon, and not only does it drink 93 octane, but being turbo-charged and all-wheel drive means that it’s lucky to get 27mpg on the interstate. Does it suck to fill that up at $45 a tankful? Yeah, it does. I would love it if 93 octane were still $1.45 a gallon. That would rule. But it’s not.

You can kind of fill in the blanks. I have this feeling the good old American public is getting the screw job. I don’t hear anyone talking about this on the campaign trail. But we know big oil is a big backer of our dear legislators.

Still lost as to what the point is here. And frankly, I do hear folks talk about the economy on the campaign trail—and I saw campaign footage of Hillary Clinton at a gas station. So it’s being discussed. And sure, oil companies donate lots of money to politicians—same as every large corporate strata in this country. I don’t like any of that, but I don’t see it getting fixed anytime soon.

And yeah, this is a painful cost increase to working folks. But here’s the perfect storm that’s happened, as I see it:

  • Relative economic prosperity and low gas prices in the 1990s finished the drive away from the fuel-efficient cars we saw in the latter half of the 1970s and early 1980s. Why were those cars built then fuel-efficient? Gas crises in the 1970s the last time oil prices were up this high [indexed to inflation, that is]. When oil was below $20 a barrel, the American dream of driving a bad-ass vehicle came back in vogue—you could fill up that Ford Explorer for less than the cost of steak dinner.
  • American fiscal policy has radically weakened the dollar. Even if oil was no more expensive to get out of the ground or no more sought on the market, the very fact that oil commodities are sold in dollars means that, as the dollar weakens, the price of oil is commensurately going to rise. [In fact, it would be interesting to convert 2008 oil prices into 2006 dollars for shits and giggles.]
  • American foreign policy in stirring shit up in the Middle East has everyone worried that oil production in this country or that country could be cut off, which always drives scarcity.
  • More of the world is developing, and let’s be honest, powering with oil is damn easy—light it on fire, turn the heat energy into steam, and use the steam to drive a turbine.

I figure that the rise of hybrids and generally smaller and more fuel efficient cars—here comes my friend Stephen to talk about his Honda Fit, which is about the size of my WRX and probably has half the operating costs—will continue as long as oil prices are high. I’d love to see CAFE—Corporate Average Fuel Economy—standards pushed ever higher, because let’s be honest—we’ve not spurred automakers to be more efficient with market means. When we’re given the ability to be cheap and lazy about our energy use, we’ll become profligate. Only when it’s expensive do we worry about it.

We’re fighting human nature here, and fundamentally, I think that’s what government does. Some certainly disagree with me, but I think that’s what it is.

[Now let’s see if linking to that old entry gets more comments with email addresses of “fuck@you.com”, eh?]