Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oil Price Mumbo Jumbo

Last week, I paid $1.78 per gallon for gasoline. Just a few weeks ago, I sweated finding a place to buy any gas, anywhere, at twice the price. Did I miss the news on television the night somebody explained what happened? The default in economics is always supply and demand. Somehow, I can’t really put that together. The most interesting report I have read is that the current collapse of credit has taken the oxygen out of the fire-storm of speculation, therefore forcing the price of oil to actually reflect supply and demand. Maybe. Who knows? Certainly not anybody I know. It is still a pretty safe bet that any society able to wean itself from oil dependency may stand half a chance of survival in the future.

According to the Sierra Club’s The Green Life, “oil prices will rebound to more than $100 per barrel as soon as the economy recovers.” Will somebody please wake me when we get there? It is already hard enough to know what to wish for. By 2030, the price of oil will naturally exceed $200 per barrel, as standards of living rise in China and India. Americans will recall with nostalgia the good-old-days of $4 a gallon gasoline. However, by 2030, alternative fuel vehicles, like plug-in hybrid, electric, natural gas, and fuel cell cars may rule the road, according to The Green Life, making “oil price mumbo-jumbo moot.” Projections that plug-in vehicles alone will eventually account for 50 percent of U.S. transportation argue that household budgets will not be chained to the price of oil. Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so? Where are the corporate clowns at General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler? Out lobbying the U.S. government for some sort of taxpayer dole.

One my enduring memories of the early 1950’s is of guys older than I was, teenagers, in their front yards taking cars apart and putting them back together again. Just for the fun of it, as best anybody could tell. They dressed in blue jeans and white t-shirts and looked like young Marlon Brandos and James Deans even before the images of young Marlon Brando and James Dean had been invented by Hollywood cameras. Where did those guys go? Did they get swallowed whole and end up in the belly of the whale in Detroit? I’d like to think that they, or maybe their children and grandchildren are still tinkering in garages and tin-roof buildings on secondary highways along the railroad tracks all across America. Moe and Molly the mechanics refuse to accept the lazy corporate response and are building and/or converting their own cars that run on something other than gasoline. Electric, natural gas, cooking oil recycled from do-you- want-fries-with-that. A guy in Douglasville, Ga., has converted his own S-10 pickup to all electric. Cost $12,000, including the used truck. A company in Canada will sell you your own natural gas fueling device to hook up to the natural gas utility line service in your house. This is on sale now, available by mail order at about $3,000. I want to talk to some of these folks, learn more about how they did it and what they have to say. If I do, Paw Paw Bill will let you know. Now that the election is over, this is the most important thing I can think of.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Professor Staff said...

Making biodiesel really isn't that hard (anyone could do it in a garage, there are some exposure-related safety precautions to take with handling methanol). I'd do it if my spouse would allow a 3rd car :) (apparently really old Mercedes are a favorite of biodiesel enthusiasts).

As far as the price of oil goes, the last time gas was this cheap was Feb 2004. You can view all the data (historical retail gas prices by region) here:

- Rob Butera


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