Saturday, April 29, 2006

Windfall Profits

Gas is now $3.16 a gallon at the Valero station around the corner from my house and George W. is trying to sound like an environmentalist. Sure, drivers pay that much or more in many countries of the world, but that's becaue of taxes that ultimately benefit consumers by financing roads, bridges and other infrastructure need for the gas guzzling economy. Here in the United States the Big Oil companies are reaping enormous windfall profits while attempting to place the blame for rising gas prices on turbulence in Iraq and Iran, environmental regulations that prevent refineries from dirtying the air, and that nasty socialist Chavez in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the administration is in denial about global warming, out of step with the whole world. Fossil fuels have had a good run, but its days are numbered, and the withdrawal is going to be painful for everyone.

To expect an administration owned hook, line and sinker by the oil industry to solve the problem of rising oil prices, windfall profits and global warming is an exercise in futility. It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that Bush & Co are in Iraq primarily to control Middle East oil. All the propaganda about "democracy" (and just what does that word mean now?) is smoke and mirrors, nothing more.

Before the global economy became a mantra, people used to produce what they needed close to home. Government policies were designed to protect these primary producers and the consumer. Today the fiscal conservatives call that protectionism. They've bet the farm on the global corporation, that fictitious person with all of the rights but none of the responsibilities of an individual. Sure, they talk about the trickle down theory, and how a rising tide floats all ships, but tell that to the farmers in Mexico devastated by NAFTA. These are the people who now want to immigrate here, legally or not, and take our lowest paying jobs. Why not, when NAFTA destroyed their livelihoods?

But to return to oil, the global market needs to ship everything everywhere, and that takes oil, lots of it. Food is shipped, car parts are shipped, books are shipped. Our highways are full of huge trucks shipping stuff from distribution centers in the heartland to big box stores in the population centers. The only resistance I see is from farmers' markets which sell locally produced vegetables and other home grown products. Who buys clothes made in their region, or electronics? All of it is shipped.

Few people can afford cars and trucks in Vietnam and Cambodia where I was amazed to see thousands of scooters, motorcycles and bikes filling city streets when I visited last fall. I assume it's much the same in China. Bangkok, on the other hand, has transitioned to the automobile, and its streets are almost impassable, and the air unbreathable. Automobile manufacturers now are eyeing the Chinese market where already the air is worse in large major cities, from unregulated factories and coal fires, than anywhere on the planet. When China gets SUVs, Hummers and freeways, it's all over.

My own solution is to live close to town and walk as much as possible. A tank in my Toyota truck, which now costs over $30, can last me a week or more. I'm not sure what I'll do this summer when I'd like to take a road trip. That might become a thing of the past. Jack Kerouac must be rolling over in his grave.

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