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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Local Perspective

Where I come from, we have a strange little fellow that runs something called the Taxpayer's League of Minnesota. A kind of a minor league Newt Gingrich or Grover Norquist, he fashions himself a disillusioned academic (sans PhD -- fancy that, who would of thunk it?) with a bunch of answers that not surprisingly follow the conservative mindset to a T.

The League of Underwhelming Gentlemen probably don't exert huge leverage upon the local citizenry -- apart from the true believing choir members, but I still find it instructive to find out how they push the energy depletion meme from their think-hovel. They have posted a white-paper on what they perceive as the rationale for high gas prices on their home page.
"Gasbags - What the politicians and the pundits aren't saying about the fluctuating price of gas and oil- and what you need to know !"
One of the biggest concerns with oil availability is not the quantity of oil available in the world, but who controls it. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and the long list of other producers who control world oil supplies are not reliable trading partners, nor are they particularly efficient producers. Iran, for instance, is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world, but their industrial capacity is so degraded by a corrupt political system that they have to import most of the gasoline they consume!

And for those of us who remember the Arab oil embargo of the 1970's, it is easy to see how international politics can have a direct impact on the availability of oil.

Even here in the United States, the home of capitalism and the free market, lawmakers are constantly intervening in the marketplace in ways that drive up the price and lower the availability of oil to average consumers. For 25 years the Federal government has imposed a moratorium on the exploration for and drilling of oil off the coasts of America, and of course everyone is aware of the never-ending battle over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Despite the huge run-up in the price of oil and gasoline, lawmakers have refused to allow drilling for the billions of barrels of known reserves in U.S. control. It is simply impossible to have our cake and eat it too: if you want oil to be more plentiful and cheaper, then you have to be willing to extract it out of the ground where it is.

With policies like these, is it any wonder that as the years move on, the U.S. gets more dependent upon foreign oil? (their emphasis)
OK, from that slanted perspective we know immediately that the League has no clue that the USA has long glided past a significant depletion event. But then I discover that they have hedged their bets, as well:
In all likelihood, the industrialized world will shift energy consumption away from oil in the coming years for reasons other than declining availability. High prices, political and environmental concerns including pollution and the possibility of climate change, increasing numbers of options, and government regulations will all change the way we power our economy in the coming years.

Petroleum has been king for a century, and will remain so for years or decades to come. But the end is in sight as technology and attitudes toward oil consumption change.
Petroleum will remain king for years or decades to come? Grammatically parsing that sentence would indicate that petroleum could likely only remain king for less than 20 years (otherwise why suggest years in addition to decades?). All in all, I would recommend reading the paper fully; no where else will you find a mixture of unbridled optimism mixed with an underlying trepidation which almost borders on fear and desparation.

The lord gnome of the Taxpayer's League claimed on a radio show that a university in North Carolina (A&T perhaps? Didn't quite catch the reference) actually used this "white-paper" in their curriculum.

David Strom, League president, contributing to global warming while chatting about the benefits of home schooling.


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