Friday, December 15, 2006

The Truth on American Oil Dependence

When I say "the truth", I mean "Pravda", as in the Russian newspaper (now owned, I believe, by the government Gazprom business). While the paper is mostly filled with "Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have lesbian sex" articles, there's occasionally an editorial tossed in for good measure. They usually run along the lines of "America seeks to destroy Russia", or "Poland seeks to destroy Russia", this one is a bit better than the usual.

And so, rather than focusing on Pravda itself, let's get down to the meat and bones of the issue it handles. The article I linked above describes a " of leading US business executives and senior military officers..." who delivered a report on oil dependency to the White House and Congress.

The participants include Fedex, UPS, and Dow-Corning executives, military high muckety-mucks, et al. Their conclusion is that:

'“pure market economics will never solve the problem” of US oil dependency.'

Where to begin?

Let's start by saying that a pure market is a pretty far cry from the US economy (though closer than, say, Venezuela).

But what really interests me is the idea that "oil dependency" is a problem, and that it presumes that we're really oil dependent at all.

We use TONS of oil, there's no mistaking that. But oil dependency is the sort of statment that makes me think of drug dependency - we're not just talking about use, we're talking about the inability to stop, even if we like. That, dear readers, is the bull. There is nobody forcing consumers to continue using petroleum - as soon as its price rises, consumers will flee. That's hardly the reaction of a coke-head looking for their fix.

Yes, our energy needs have grown, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future, but that by no means ties us into petroleum. As prices for oil rises, new commodities become economical.

But let's say we ARE addicted, and that we can't get enough of the black stuff. The only problems I can see with this situation is the fact that petroleum products tend to be polluting, contributing as well to a greenhouse effect.

But that, friends, is a debate for another day - and one, I should say, that David regularly addresses.

1 comment:

David said...

Well said Tim. It is true, though, that we are dependent on foreign sources for our oil but we are all dependent on McDonald's for a Big Mac.

Similarly, McDonald's is dependent on everyone for money, just as these countries are dependent on places like the US for capital to fund their exports. That's what trade is: an interdependency which encourages cooperation, efficiency and peace.