Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Entitlements

It's common for many people to ridicule certain segments of the population for their sense of "entitlement". I don't know, maybe in some cases they are right. I DO know that a vast majority of Americans feel they have a RIGHT to cheap gas. Read any recent article on the high price of gas and there will be someone expressing their frustration. "We're getting taken to the cleaners". "They keep raising the prices". "They're cheating us".

These people just don't get it. Which is not surprising, considering that even with all the news, there's no content, no context. Here's the situation: Prior to this peak-oil plateau, the suppliers were in the driver's seat. Demand was steadily growing, and the suppliers decided when to extract oil, based on market signals. Now, the suppliers have lost control. They are pumping as much as they technically can. This was made abundantly clear when Saudi Arabia turned down Pres. Bush II's recent groveling. OPEC cannot produce any more than they currently are. That reveals a dirty secret: the demand side is driving the price increase.

Every person, every business, every industry, who buys gasoline is driving the price increase. The more you/we buy, the less there is. The more you/we buy, the more the price goes up. Each consumer is competing with each other for access to that precious liquid.

We are not used to thinking of ourselves in this manner. In our minds, what we do is our own business. It has no impact on others. Our purchase of something does not deprive someone else of that purchase. It does not create pollution and extract precious resources from the earth. It does not create a problem in the landfill when we throw it away.

I wonder if this particular crisis will begin to make us realize that we do have an impact on other people, as the "have nots", who were previously "haves", begin to resent the oh-so-obvious waste of fuel: those vehicles that get a sub-par mpg. It may become as obscene as lighting a 100 dollar bill on fire and waving it in a starving person's face, or dumping a beautiful steak in the gutter.

Everyone out there driving a tank or with a three hour commute - you are taking up more than your fair share. YOU are driving up the price for everyone else. And soon.... other people will begin to realize it as well. The Hummer will no longer be a status symbol. It will be the sign of a pariah. "Damnit, gas is just too expensive now! I can barely afford to drive this tank 3 hours to work and back!"

Oh, but SUV's are such an easy target. The rest of us, who just drive regular cars to work.... we're also taking up more than our fair share, in relation to the rest of the world. In reality, if we hope to stop climate change, the fair share that we need to use is less than one ton of carbon dioxide per person per year - and that counts everything - electricity, gas, the embodied energy of the food we eat and the consumer goods that we buy.

So sadly, this is necessary. But it's too bad so few will understand how the process works and will keep blaming OPEC, Exxon Mobil, and the gas stations for the high prices. None of whom are innocent, but they are not trying to gouge us any more than any capitalist would. If you want to see who's driving the high prices.... just look in the mirror.

So stop being a victim and start being part of the solution. It may hurt. OK, it will hurt. And I do feel sorry for many of the people who are hurt by the high gas prices. But get over it and find a solution. Quit complaining. You caused this problem. I caused this problem. We caused it, just by mindlessly participating in our culture's insane assumption that gas would be cheap forever and ever, amen. And now we need to solve it.

1 comment:

Lewru said...

When I used to work at Borders I would have nightmares about infinite stacks of paper cups stretching up to the moon. People would get so pissed when I suggested they use a reusable cup or one of the cafe's ceramic ones. That would be too much of a pain in the ass!