Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gazoline or Vazoline

Gasoline sounds so American.  Gazoline sounds like a diabolical German scientist in a black-and-white suspense movie.  I'm not an expert on the subject of Petroleum, nor any of its refined downstream products (except for plastic, of which I use daily, har har), but I do play a petroleum expert on TV.  TV in my mind, that is.  This article is going to blow the minds of a few of my colleagues, who know me as anti-oil, but this should prove that I'm objective by nature and always have been.

And if I were a real bonafide expert on post-production petroleum permutations, I would offer the following insights into the aspects of Gasoline and our cultural perspectives upon it.  Myths be damned...

Myth: The indicators of gasoline price change are easy to predict

Wrong.  They don't exist.  What does exist is picking a reason du jour for blaming anything besides profit drive.  The truth is that of all the various excuses used by big oil, none have held up consistently.  Not oil prices, war, regional conflict, weather and natural disasters, political strife, exploration costs, refinement costs, transportation challenges, not even solar flares.

The biggest "oops!" moment came in 2008, when, at the lowest point in our economic collapse, Exxon-Mobil reported their biggest profits in history.  Not biggest revenues mind you, but biggest profits.

This was during the same week that one of the biggest page 2 stories around the nation was the report from NHTSA that highway traffic was at the lowest volume recorded in the previous twenty years.  Higher unemployment and higher gas prices meant fewer people driving around, it was said.  When asked how they could rake in such insanely-high profits, each of the big oil reps gave a completely different answer.  It seemed that they skipped their weekly golf outing and didn't have a chance to synchronize their stories.  In the end, big oil faded into the background without giving a cohesive explanation, the government panel gave up, and ultimately: nobody cared.  The best example of American determination is our short public attention span.

Conclusion: If you want to know why gas prices go up suddenly, just pick any reason, I'm sure it will stick.

Myth: It's unfair that oil companies can raise prices at will

Wrong.  Companies like Exxon/Mobil, Texaco, Chevron, BP, and so on are NOT social agencies.  They do not exist to support the betterment of society nor the noble efforts of the common worker struggling to make it to their office, their kids events, the bowling alley, the bar, and back home again.  They are what's known as A BUSINESS.  A "business" is defined as an entity that exists for the purpose of making profit.  Period.  Don't like it?  Ride a bicycle or buy an electric car.  Oh wait, there's none to choose from locally.  That's because all those years when the tree-huggers you laughed at were warning you that you'd be tied to Gas like Keith Richards to a heroin couch.  You ignored it and kept dumping your cash into big American-sized shit.  Pat yourself on the back.  Good job.

Myth: Oil companies are to blame for SUV's and 4x4 trucks with crappy mileage

This is the same bullshit argument used against Microsoft's supposed monopoly on operating systems.  No one forced you to buy a stupid, over-sized, difficult-to-park SUV.  Your ego forced it.  You had to keep up with your social circles and not be the only soccer mom without a white Escalade, Lexus or Tahoe.  You had complete control over what you purchased.  You chose poorly and now you want to blame the oil companies.  If you drive a Prius and despise the oafish driving habits of half-blind SUV owners, you still can't blame big oil. Blame the peroxide-blonde with the sunglasses on, carrying a toy poodle in to get groomed.

Myth: Government should step in to regulate gasoline prices

As much as my emotional side wants to agree with that, my rational side sees the downside of that.  Where do you draw the line?  What comes after that?  Hamburger prices?  Cable TV?  Condoms?  Chewing gum? Some people would call that a "slippery slope", but I call it a "lubricated slope".

The best solution?  Pursue alternatives.  I'm not saying to talk about alternatives, that does nothing.  Americans are all about talk, rarely taking action.  "Someday I'm going to lose weight"  Yeah.  And Elvis is coming back.  You want to break your weekly dependence on oil?  Buy an electric car, bicycle or just walk, or just STFU.

Myth:  Cutting back on gasoline use will break our dependence on OPEC and foreign oil

Wrong.  Not only does America import more oil from Canada than anyone else, keep in mind that each automobile tire consumes seven (7) gallons of oil to manufacture.  That's just the start. Now consider everything else that requires oil as an ingredient:  paint and coatings, lubricants (oil and grease), and all the massive amounts of plastics used in your car, your home, your phone, your computer, your TV, your glasses, your clothes, your shampoo and toothpaste, your combs and brushes, your appliances, your food packaging, your makeup, and more.

A pure-electric car would still consume a lot of oil to manufacture and still require more oil to keep it running.  We can't stop using oil.  It's as much a part of our lives as water and air.

Also, while a lot of people assume oil generates most of our electric power in the U.S., it doesn't even come close to coal.  Not even in the same ball park.  Coal is king.  Coal producers are not in the big oil game, they have their own game.


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