Gas Prices (6/5/08)

Okay, so everyone knows that gas is high. Thatís not exactly a news flash. But what are we doing to stop it? Well, today I got the answer. When I signed onto facebook this morning, I found that several of my friends joined the group, ď15,000,000 for Lower Gas Prices.Ē Finally, a voice! Iíll bet we can get even more than fifteen million people to join too. And once those mullahs in the Middle East who are in charge of oil prices see how much suffering theyíve caused, and theyíll come down from their high demand for oil!

Okay, people. Get real. Joining a facebook group isnít going to accomplish anything. Gas companies may be making record profits, but they donít price the oil coming out of the Persian Gulf. Boycotting Exxon isnít going to accomplish anything either. All the local gas companies purchase their gas from local refineries. Neither is a so-called ďgas holiday.Ē Buy not buying gas on one particular day, people will make up for it by going the day before or the day after, offsetting any ďgainsĒ made on the gas holiday.

Furthermore, a lot of people suggest drilling in the Alaskan wilderness as there is a large supply of oil there. This is true; there are large amounts of oil in Alaska and northern Canada. However, given the current rate of consumption of oil in North America and how small the amount of oil is in relation to the amount of oil in the Middle East, it is not likely to change gas prices by more than fifty cents a gallon.

Many other people are suggesting that ethanol is the future. It is a renewable source of energy that can replace petroleum as the major source of fuel. This approach is incredibly misguided, for three reasons. First of all, ethanol is MORE expensive than gasoline. Ethanol use is not going to lower the price of oil. Secondly, ethanol is grown (mostly) from corn; farmers are making great profits by growing corn and selling it to energy companies. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Farmers all around the world are catching on to this idea, and as a result, fewer and fewer crops are being grown for food. The recent food riots you read about around the world? Itís because of ethanol production. The third reason? Global warming. Deforestation is growing in record rates, and as a result, carbon dioxide levels are growing at an even higher rate. Not good.

The price of oil is going up for one reason and one reason only: supply and demand. The demand for oil and gas is spiking in previously undeveloped countries that are experiencing rapid economical growth (particularly India and China). Increased industrialization requires vast amounts of more fuel. More fuel they acquire from countries in the Middle East.

So seeing that the only relevant issue here is supply and demand, if one wants to do something about it, the only way to accomplish anything at all is to reduce demand for oil. In other words: donít drive as much. Ride your bike to work. Or if thatís not possible, drive a hybrid car. Yes, they are more expensive, but that extra cost may be offset when you double your fuel efficiency. If youíre going on vacation, take a train or a bus. Airplanes consume (according to britishairways.com) roughly 3400 gallons of fuel an hour.

My last point Iíll admit is not a thought I had myself. I read it a few weeks ago; I forget where. It discusses the few benefits to higher gas prices, and one in particular caught my eye. It mentioned how it would help bring about the end of the epoch of the internal combustion engine. And that hit the nail on the head. The internal combustion engine has been around since the 19th Century, and has dominated all forms of transportation in the 20th and will continue to do so for most of the 21st. But given the cost of using such an engine now (and the likelihood that the cost will continue to grow), it is becoming increasingly likely that the engine of tomorrow will be driven (haha, get it? driven?) by something other than petroleum. What that is, remains to be seen.