Here we go again. Every time gasoline prices spike, no matter the reason, Republican leaders and talk radio’s libertarian elite reach for the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) latest talking points and crank up the ‘drill, baby, drill’ rhetoric….
The GOP’s real energy crisis is one of focus. Republican leaders are focusing their energy on keeping America overly dependent on a resource that is far more plentiful outside our own borders. They largely dismiss the strategy of reducing demand and seem content to have us suck our own limited oil reserves dry as quickly as possible. It is a phony solution that they think will play well politically.
Peddling geologic ignorance may score some points with voters who don’t know any better, but it won’t bring the promised relief at the pump. [1]

That quote is almost a year old, but carries no less weight today.

With the GOP now both apoplectic at (1), what our Kenyan-Colonialist-Muslim-Socialist-Martian-Taxaholic-America-hating President (did I mention he’s not a white guy?) is doing to gasoline prices (all by himself, no less, and undoubtedly for non-patriotic, anti-religious purposes … possibly involving contraception and spending of some sort) and (2), relishing the opportunity to blame him for these rising prices (in their economic-fact-free world), I thought it might be useful to trot out an old post of mine, also from a year ago.

Not surprising, the gas prices issue is also giving rise to the same nonsense as was featured in 2011. No need to update with new quotes; they all come from the same Book of Nonsense.

With Newt Gingrich blessing us with revelations obtained from his most recent beyond-Earth’s-atmosphere trip to Planet Delusional Obnoxious Neanderthal that he and he alone will bring the price of gasoline back down to $2.50 per gallon in his Administration (unless some stuff involving reality happens and he … uh, can’t), perhaps we ought to try a different tack and see what facts suggest, just for comparison.

You know what they are, Right? Declining supply; increasing demand; increasing exploration, production, and refining costs; inferior quality substitutes; geopolitical considerations … ring any bells? (Not even Cheerful Newt, with the keen powers only a genuine, incredibly well-paid historian possesses, can prevent any of this.)

So with only a few editorial tweaks, let’s re-visit: “Apparently, Clueless IS A Strategy.”

[NOTE: This is the latest installment in a new PeakOilMatters series (which started here). It’s about finding a new and better vision to get to, through, and beyond Peak Oil and its widespread impact on what we produce, how we produce, and how we live. We won’t be falling off a cliff tomorrow, and the full brunt of Peak Oil’s effects won’t be experienced all at once, either. Gas and oil do not have to disappear entirely, nor do gas prices have to rise into the stratosphere before Peak Oil’s impact is felt.
Gradually, but inexorably, changes will be in the offing, however. We need to come to a better understanding of this, and start preparing ourselves now for the lengthy transition and just as lengthy ongoing impact of Peak Oil on all of us. Many issues must of necessity be considered, and I hope to make a contribution to the public dialogue we need to have. I hope you’ll find these objectives enjoyable as well as beneficial. We have more of a voice than we think we do. Finding that voice just might be our best hope.]

~~~

We’re blindly focused on searching for answers within our old paradigm of energy and it’s a vision that really needs to shift. [1]

I began a multi-part series entitled Clueless Is Not A Strategy (first post here) whose primary purpose was to argue that in the face of growing oil production challenges, we need to start having serious, adult conversations about what we’ll all soon be facing (yes, even those who deny the reality of Peak Oil). Remaining ignorant of the facts about oil production, oil supply, and increasing demand; or relying on ignorant or at best disingenuous arguments which urge us not to worry and be happy about our energy resources (if only we can stop our nefarious President with his socialist policies from implementing evil, job-killing regulations … have I covered most of the Buzz-Words of the Day?), is, I proposed, not our best approach.

It would appear, (unfortunately), that some of our fearless “leaders” haven’t gotten the strategy memo—or they are still working from the wrong one. Clueless reigns supreme in some corners of Congress—yet another display of the remarkable ability of some to completely ignore facts and simultaneously plan as far ahead as early next week.

Where is the president’s plan for rising gas prices? – Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Now is the time to be asking what we can do to increase domestic energy production, not proposing ways to squeeze American families even more,’ –  Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

‘My message today simply is the higher gas prices are simply a product of this administration’s goal [to enact a cap-and-trade plan to curb emissions of greenhouse gases].’ – Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) *

‘Since this administration has taken over, they have done everything to block energy development in this country,’ – Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA)

Seriously? Must be part of the Socialist-Alien-Kenyan-Muslim-Not Exceptional-Completely-Ruin-The Country-Just-For-The-Hell-Of-It strategy Obama obviously began pursuing nefariously with his nefarious parents since shortly after his birth on a still-undetermined planet somewhere in our solar system.

Imagine that: an opposition party assailing the President because he (with his magical superpowers over all of commerce and industry) simply has not ordered prices to drop. If only he would stop pursuing regulations that raise gas prices just for the hell of it. What is Obama waiting for? (And while I have his attention, still waiting on lowering college tuition costs for our two daughters….)

Just how clueless are they, and how much of their nonsense will we permit to guide policy in the weeks ahead? They still don’t get it….We have leaders (including Democrats) still making the same pointless pronouncements about “weaning ourselves off of/ending our foreign oil dependency” while they now consider opening up our Strategic Petroleum Reserve because gas prices are high … and still doing absolutely nothing about the underlying causes. (And sorry, Ms. Palin and your loyal followers, “drill, baby, drill” is still as dumb and useless a policy as it was two years ago. See this for more information.)

To his credit, Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, said that the petroleum reserve should be left untouched absent a severe disruption in supply or other emergency. Hard to believe I know, but higher prices at the pump should not qualify as an “emergency.” (Jim DiPeso offered a terrific summary of the reasons against opening up the Reserve.)

As I noted in another post (echoing the realities explained by others much more knowledgeable than me): “For all the talk of the ‘massive’ amounts of oil offshore and in Alaska and the ‘obvious’ need for us to just ‘drill, baby, drill’, we’re several decades away from full production in those regions, and the amounts anticipated will wind up meeting far less than even 5% of our needs. None of it will come cheaply. Drilling in the Arctic is a wee bit more challenging than punching a hole in the ground in Texas, and one does not require an engineering degree to understand that. The ‘drill, baby, drill’ crowd never gets around to spelling any of that out for us. Magical thinking is nice, as is a denial of pesky truths, but on the planet we occupy, it’s a fairly useless exercise.”

Oil is produced and consumed in particular places, but there’s a single worldwide price of oil that’s determined by global supply and global demand. It’s not possible for one country to unilaterally alter the price its own citizens pay at the pump by altering the quantity of oil it produces. A new well in the United States has exactly the same impact on global prices as a new well in Norway or Venezuela or Saudi Arabia and thus the exactly the same impact on the price American consumers pay.
And yet turn it into a political story and suddenly all this knowledge drops away. [3]

Gas prices are higher, and that’s not going to change much in the weeks and months and years to come absent recessions—and it’s best if we not actually plan on falling into another one of those. It may tick off a significant segment of the population and those leaders who seem to think that we are just entitled to lower gas prices because we’re … you know … special, but here’s the message: Grow up and get used to it! We’re better than that, and we need to demonstrate it now. Our future well-being demands no less than recognition of facts and reality. Ideology is nice and serves its own purposes, but it ought to have a much more limited role going forward.

We have a problem with oil production now—not just here in the United States—and it is not going to get better. Demand is increasing, and the amount of oil now being produced will not keep up with that increasing demand. Unfortunately for those who don’t like hearing that kind of news, we Americans do not live in protective bubble. Billions of other people in less-developed nations are eagerly and diligently working to elevate the quality of their lives, and they all need energy to make that happen … the same energy sources we use. More demand for shrinking supply = less for everyone, even we exceptional Americans. Higher prices are part of the ride. Reality.

It is not rocket science. It is not another in a long line of delusional nefarious, Muslim-supporting, job-killing, regulation-creating, socialist conspiracies, despite the best efforts of some self-serving, narrow-minded politicians and media personnel looking to score points with a select group of citizens who also don’t seem to get it. They’re better than that, too.

Higher prices are one noteworthy consequence of a finite resource that can no longer be extracted in amounts, in time, in the right conditions, at optimum quality, and at prices sufficient to meet ever-increasing demand. Facts. Yes, Middle East turmoil has something to do with those price hikes right now—perhaps most of it. But above and beyond this particular geopolitical constraint, we’re now entering a stage on the historical time line of fossil fuel production where supply will not meet demand. Period. It is just that simple. That basic economic problem carries with it a host of consequences and outcomes.

As demand grows in the next decade, we will not have the oil production capacity we will need to meet demand. Supply will then have to ration demand, and prices will skyrocket – with the likely outcome of bringing the world’s economy to its knees. – John B. Hess, chairman and chief executive of the Hess Corporation [4]

Republican House Speaker John Boehner offered his energy insights:

‘As gas prices go up, so does the cost of everyday life,’ [he] told reporters as he unveiled a campaign dubbed the ‘America Energy Initiative’ to increase supplies and roll back regulations.
‘It costs more to drive to work, to buy groceries, or just to get the kids to school. And at a time when our economy already isn’t creating enough jobs, rising gas prices hurt the very people we need to lead us out of our economic crisis: Small businesses,’ he said.

Coming from leadership whose insane and shortsighted budget-cutting proposals are derided by not just Democratic economists but also independents, Wall Street analysts, and John McCain’s own Presidential campaign economic advisor (among others, here) as doing nothing but costing hundreds of thousands of more jobs while pushing us closer to another recession, the Speaker’s concerns about creating jobs rings a tad hollow (although nice job on getting another buzz-phrase: small business, into the comments!). But should we be surprised? It’s all about the sound bites and not the unpleasant truths….We deserve better.

Not to be outdone, Senator McConnell was quoted as saying that we will all be dependent on fossil fuels for “decades to come.” If I were to tell you that your ears will bleed for decades to come, is that the beginning and end of my conversation with you? Might there be at least one moment when you pondered a couple of things in response? “Is this a good thing? Why is that? Would it make sense to change the behaviors or factors causing my ears to bleed?” Just wondering….

Another unpleasant and sure-to-tick-off some truth is that we—you and me—share blame as well.

The success, to date, of fossil fuels being able to meet energy demand any time required has led to a feeling of society wide unrealistic entitlement. This translates into a belief that whatever we want we can always have whenever we want it. This of course is leading to problems as it patently can no longer be maintained. [5]

We will need to be better and wiser than that. We are, so let’s prove it.

There’s no disputing that higher gas prices put a strain on most budgets, both personal and business. That in turn sets all kinds of financial dominoes into motion, with few of them leading to pleasant results. But unless and until we can individually and collectively wrap our minds around the fact that this is just the beginning stages of an entirely new way of living, transporting, producing, and consuming, we’ll continue to look for the same band-aid solutions that will only defer more pain until a bit later on, making the problems all the more difficult to contend with. That’s not much of a strategy. At some point, we need to find our courage and our wisdom so that we make new choices, have new plans and policies, and deal with a future that will be unlike the past in more ways than any of us probably realize.

And an aspect of courage easily overlooked or simply ignored is that regardless of one’s political philosophy, when leadership pursues policies clearly at odds with our long-term interests—even though the policy is entirely consistent with the ideology—something has to give. Since when is shooting ourselves in the foot a noble principle? We all pay a price when we meekly accept an absence of integrity and honesty in political discourse or policy-making itself.

This is not doom-and-gloom for next week or next month, but the process of stagnating if not outright declining oil production has begun. It will unfold over a considerable period of time, and in that regard we’ll have at least some opportunities to “adjust.” But that cannot be our salvation nor can it be the guiding principle for what we need to do as individuals, in our communities, and through our government.

“No plans = unnecessary chaos.” – Chris Martenson

We have both the opportunity and the capabilities to create a recognizable future for ourselves. Failing to take advantage leaves us at the mercy of a fossil fuel tidal wave that will in time change the landscape beyond anything we can envision now. I’d like to believe none of us thinks that that is our best strategy.

More to come….

* See the terrific Steve Benen discussion of the bizarre “reasoning” behind this comment.

[NOTE: I’ll be traveling the rest of this week. Please look for the 3rd and final installment in my series: Peak Oil Denial: Alive, Well, Still Not Helping next Monday.]

Sources:

[1] http://peakoil.com/consumption/the-energy-prophet/; The energy prophet – Peter Tertzakian’s conversation with Derek Brower, October 28, 2010 (original article at http://www.petroleum-economist.com/default.asp?page=14&PubID=46&ISS=25702&SID=727276
[2] http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110310/pl_afp/mideastunrestuseconomypoliticsoil; US Republicans assail Obama as gas prices rise – March 10, 2011
[3] http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/03/oil-a-commodity-traded-on-a-global-marketplace/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+matthewyglesias+%28Matthew+Yglesias%29; Oil: A Commodity Traded On A Global Marketplace – March 11, 2011
[4] http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/a-dark-warning-on-global-oil-demand/#more-94428; A Dark Warning on Global Oil Demand By Clifford Krauss – March 8, 2011
[5] http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-11-25/how-sustainable-renewable-energy; How sustainable is renewable energy? by Roger Adair – November 25, 2010