David from Pennsylvania, where the American oil boom started about 150 years ago, commented: "I think people are just very confused when they see that demand within the United States is actually down, but the price of gasoline continues to rise. It looks like price fixing."
Compared to the various Senators and CNBC anchors who have been dominating the discussion of the energy issue since the price of oil started to climb like Danielson, I start to sound like somebody who might actually know something about oil. That's sad. Tons of bad information out there. Lots of wild fantasies. People being gullible as can be. Professional spinners going like tops, trying to capitalize on that gullibility. Of course such a PR blitz is to be expected as there is so much at stake, and oil companies have an unlimited supply of cash with which to buy spinning tops.
Most of the oil-related misinformation out there is accidental rather than deliberate. I have even added plenty of my own. Today I was standing in an elevator when I noticed a news headline on the little screen there - highrise elevators have little monitors in them these days, flashing news and weather and assorted pulp, an advertising vehicle of course, which gives you something to look at other than the buttons or the floor. The headline said "Oil demand falls but prices rise." This is exactly the kind of misleading statement that has Americans so mind-warped. Of course people are confused. If elevators are spewing bad information perhaps all hope is lost.
The Elevator Wizard, as I call it, is wrong. It's true that demand is falling slightly in the U.S. But overall, demand for oil is still growing despite the flattening in this country. It's global demand that counts, and domestic demand is a mere subset of it. That demand comes in the form of ongoing double digit growth in China and India. It comes in the form of millions of people you've never met trading in their bicycles for gas powered motorbikes and cars. It comes in the form of diesel powered construction equipment digging another parking garage for the four-millionth Singapore skyscraper. America, we like to think we're the center of everything, but we're just kind of along for the ride at this point. There is a sort of tragic-comic irony in that, seeing as how we Americans are the world's undisputed original oil hog champions, and no other oil consuming countries can even carry our jock.
It has been posited, and I believe persuasively if not conclusively, that the price will now rise exponentially until it causes enough demand destruction in wealthy countries to balance supply and demand. Poor countries will be priced out with unknown consequences.
If we wanted to take charge of the price of energy, we Americans could probably do it. But it would mean making a bold transition to a different way of living. So it really seems to be unlikely at this point. Bold transitions don't really seem to be in the cards. Frantic, confused and forced transitions are in fashion these days.
The alternative to a bold transition is to keep whining and keep fillin' 'er up, keep bleeting incoherently about environmentalists and refinery capacity and other canards, and live in a state of denial. In that scenario, the path we are following now and seem bent on following, we lose control of our energy destiny. Instead of taking charge of the price of oil, it takes charge of us. Instead of transforming ourselves, we will be transformed. Buckle up, I think that's pretty much where we're going with this.
My wife says I have an unnatural obsession with oil. I guess she's right. Sorry everybody.
More reader comments answered in days to come. If you have one, on any subject, drop a line to robert at industrializedcyclist dot com.