If it were true that Oil products only cost $1.50 per gallon at the pump and that this was the only price we really pay for them, and if global warming didn't exist and military-security issues didn't crop up because of oil importation and the product itself were less finite in its supply, and if it were also true that trade deficit issues didn't exist and other important ultimately costly environmental issues as well, such as hazardous waste cleanup both on land and at sea of petroleum-based products, then I'd say fine: we're seeing the true costs of oil.
But none of these costs seem to be fully factored in at the pump. In fact, we're seeing such a delay in their accounting that we may never really realize the costs of oil, even if and when our civilization has been very hurt by a sea-change in how the world does business.
The unprecedented bounty that the world and the US experienced in the 20th century was largely due to plentiful oil and the use that productive people made out of it. But there are tremendous costs to that direction which we must now take action to address.
Our laissez-faire "let-be" system, or our present interpretation of how that system should function, doesn't seem to be built to address such matters in its conventional wait-and-see way. We seem to be waiting for the price of oil to be reflected at the pump before we do much about what some already have realized for years or decades is an emergency situation. We don't seem to expect pro-activeness from our government or our industry. I believe that we should, and we must, if we are to survive the 21st century as a top-notch country.
In recent weeks, not only have most Americans finally started to realize the consequences of our oil dependencies, but the oil companies and their distributors and their foreign suppliers have taken action to keep the price at the pump very low. While it would perhaps be wrong to rush to assign a motive or a purposeful design to this, in the case of Saudi Arabia (which has gone out of its way for decades to send us a disproportionate amount of oil) it is almost as though we are seeing a very spoiled child finally realize that he has been getting away with murder for years, and now is the time to fly very very low under the radar because he has done something to draw his parents' attention and punishment.
I have always avoided sensationalist comment about the terrorist costs of oil. I felt it was wrong to try to assign some economic number to a normative issue and normative cost. But how can we avoid this any longer? Now that we realize that WE are the ones who have funded the terrorists who attacked us. Yes: WE.
If we buy a gallon of gas partly made in Saudi Arabia or some other OPEC nation, and if the Saudis then in turn send a goodly part of their money to terrorists and extremists who teach terroristic philosophies in Pakistan and the like, then how are we to pretend any longer that it is not partly our own money which is going to fund the terrorism which we now fight?
And how are we to avoid any discussion of the dozens and hundreds of billions of dollars which this fight is now costing us? What of the 20 Billion dollar checks that the government had to issue, in plural, for this or that disaster relief, in response to 9-11? What of the price our economy is now paying, a price which may ultimately be measured in Trillions of dollars, and homeless starving Americans? Shall we pretend that NONE of this has ANYTHING to do with a price that we pay for oil on the world markets? Shall we pretend that Iran, from whom we buy no oil but which still sells oil on the world markets to such as Japan, and which is working 24x7 to blow us to pieces (no matter what they're saying) has terroristic ability utterly unrelated to the oil wealth they've accumulated? Shall we pretend that the price they get has nothing to do with our own insatiable 20 million barrel per day oil habit or the money we throw around in order to satisfy this habit?
If the latest Oil-Interest effort succeeds, to drive the present price-per-gallon low enough to defuse Americans' temporary desire to change our system, then we perhaps set ourselves up for an even greater fall, one that ultimately economic historians thousands of years from now may partly trace back to our oil habits. How much, for example, will they record was paid out in insurance to terroristic problems? How much to claims relating to global warming?
If we are to discuss the "costs" of this or that fuel source, then let us actually do so and not just focus on some modest biofuel effort and its supposed costs. Let us also look beyond our present understanding of "costs" and realize that our weakness is a difficulty in understanding external costs and seeing them more clearly.
If we are to discuss looking for all possible solutions to our present more-clearly-seen energy situation, then let us do so and not just play at it.
The narrow focus of the Cheney-Murkowski team, which has been focusing too much on ANWR and the Rockies, and throwing a socialist bone to Renewables as if to do the nation some sort of favor, reveals not a serious interest in our long-term energy security, but a lack of interest. (Let's remember: ANWR is projected by the government only to provide up to about 1.35 million barrels per day, or optimistically about 6.75% of our present Oil use, with some projections totally quite a bit less). We need to look at *all* possible solutions and to pursue them *all* very seriously.
The draft of Murkowski's bill includes:
"-- A requirement that manufacturers make light trucks between 2004 and 2011 that save 5 billion gallons of gasoline through increased fuel efficiency"
This is a reference to the fact that light trucks and SUV's are I guess not subject to the same CAFE laws as have been cars for years, and that this is a major reason that consumers have opted for them: they have powerful more gas-guzzling engines and consumers can buy these powerful engines without suffering any financial penalty that might be built into vehicles which fall under CAFE rules (I'm not sure of the precise way this works legally).
We see millions of vehicle owners throughout the country and the world, every day, guzzling fuel, some of it purchased from irrevocably violent terrorist regimes, and not even making an effort to recycle any of that fuel through regenerative braking. We see folks who define being a "good" person partly as recycling newspapers and cans, but then no one wants to recycle energy.
Maybe energy is harder to conceive of because it is not conrete but rather the relative motion or potential relative motion of physical bodies.
In any case, I think all vehicles should be subject to pretty much the same rules, and that we should have regen brakes on more vehicles.
We need proposal(s) to build dozens of gigawatts of solar power in the American Southwest. This does not have to be all via photovoltaic cells, and so it could circumvent the present cost problems with those cells. We also need more proposals to build gigawatts per year of added wind and wave power. If this is criticized as fascist, for the government to be involved in such proposals, then why is it not also criticized as fascist for the government to be involved in oil and coal drilling proposals? I'd say, if we build gigawatts of solar and wind and wave power, and we still need energy, fine go ahead and build whatever nuclear or coal plants we need, in addition. No one energy source is going to solve any of this.