Category Archives: peak oil

What to do about gas prices?


Americans United for Change has launched a campaign to Free Our Oil! While an interesting response to the Republican focus on lying to support drilling, I challenged this campaign, stating that this effort supports a quite dangerous framing of the problems and solutions.

If we make this just about gas prices, we are caught into a very dangerous framing. “Lowering” gas prices gets people thinking back to cheaper energy unit costs days. We need people, the nation thinking about enery as a system, as a “cost to own” rather than “cost to buy”. We (the nation) should foster upfront investment (help it) that will lower total “cost to own” by reducing wasteful use of polluting energy. While difficult in a robocall, every single message (I would argue) should avoid getting captured in messaging that fosters thinking that we can go back to days of cheaper gasoline. Over the long term (and likely short term), it isn’t going to happen.

In response, I was asked the following question:

Say, for example, you were on TV today as a representative of the Democratic Party. The interviewer asks, “A, what is the Democratic Party doing in Congress to help lower oil/gas costs for Americans who are hurting?” What’s your answer?

The GOP has an answer – gas tax holiday and drilling offshore. You and I know that these are two options that won’t do anything significant in the short-term, and we they do nothing to change the culture of oil that we live in. However, they are ideas and Americans want to hear ideas, be them good or bad.

What can the Dems do right now to bring down costs, without sacrificing their long-term message of changing the way we think about oil. OR, given our foreign policy and the world as it is today. is $4/5/6/gallon just the new reality and we need to suck it up?

For my off-the-top of the head (basically unedited) response, follow me after the fold.
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Updated: What Fraction Of America’s $4+/Gallon Gasoline Is Due To The War In Iraq?

383359478_3dd94a0fdf_m.jpgJust how much of the pump price of gasoline is attributable to the war in Iraq? A dollar? Three dollars? None. That conversation recently swirled around me and, one one point, someone commented that well over half (or more than $2) of America’s $4.10 gallon of gas is due to the war. Another person asked “Is that right?” And, after pulling out some hair from my head, my response was both short and then long.

The short:

Two dollars a gallon is, perhaps, as good a swag as anyone’s. … I think.

And, the long after the fold.


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Politics and Gas Prices

It is ever so tempting to scream “GAS PRICES” and call for lowered gas prices if you are a candidate challenging for Congress or elsewhere. Ever so tempting to pander to (quite real) concerns about skyrocketing prices with counterproductive calls for cutting gasoline prices. These, however, fly in the face of the realities of Peak Oil and ever increasing demands for oil. Promising lower gasoline prices (or hinting at them) might (MIGHT) be good short-term political moves but is counter-productive in the long term and represents an abandoment of the type of leadership required in the face of Peak Oil and Global Warming.

The reality is that Bush Administration policies, such as filling in the strategic petroleum reserve even in tight supply times and fostering ever worse energy efficiency (promoting McSUVs) and going to war in Iraq, have aggravated the situation, driving prices even higher than they might have been otherwise. Thus, there are policy paths that could provide some relief and, potentially, turn the clock a bit on gasoline prices. But, even with DRILLING, the core requirement is to move toward ever more efficient use of oil. Some of this path is long term and investment required (such as moving toward electrified transport, whether rail or personal vehicles), some can be quite near term and nearly zero cost. That last (the near term, zero cost) creates a true opportunity for combing Energy Smart with Politically Smart.
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Bethesda Bagels vs County Executive’s SUV?

Two Washington Post articles in the past week provide an interesting little localized contrast of the challenges related to finding a path toward an Energy Smart future.
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A Voice of Reason from an Oil CEO?

Yet again, Shell’s CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, has put himself out in public speaking truth that merits attention.  Last year, van der Veer made the case for serious energy efficiency as part of the energy path forward:

More than half the energy we generate every day is wasted.

What’s the point of producing even more energy if we continue to waste most of it? Instead, we should aim to become twice as efficient in our use of energy by the middle of the next century. That is entirely feasible, provided that the will is there.

I discussed that Times (London) oped in Powerful Call (by a powerful man) for Energy Efficiency.

Well, van der Veer has spoken up again.

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$200 barrel oil in 2008? Bets are on …

$200 options for oil purchases have gotten hot, with a ten-fold increase in the past several months according to Sydney Morning-Herald reporting. Don’t worry, of course, since at $100, oil remains cheap …

“One hundred dollars a barrel is actually 14.9 cents a cup, so we’re still talking about oil being remarkably cheap,” said Matthew Simmons, the chairman of Simmons & Co International

Yes, oil is much cheaper than a good Bordeaux, by volume, at least.

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Plodding past Peak?

The Guardian reports that data about oil production, globally, shows conclusively that the world has past Peak Oil and we are now in the post-Peak Oil era.

 This is based on an Energy Watch Group report scheduled to be released Monday in London.

The report, which predicts that production will now fall by 7% a year, comes after oil prices set new records almost every day last week, on Friday hitting more than $90 (£44) a barrel.

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Retired Oil CEO speaks out …

Over at EuroTribune, Starvid has a discussion of Jim Buckbee, the retired CEO’s recent OPED re energy issues. 

Some key points:

Oil Sands

The oil sands are flavour of the month and their story is certainly beguiling. But I think the reality is that developing the oil sands is going to be difficult. For example, the thermal processes [the heating of the bitumen to allow it to be pumped to the surface] that work in the laboratory don’t always work in real life. There are going to be cost and execution difficulties in the oil sands. The oil sands are not just a big sand box with uniform oil-reserve quality throughout.

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Blogging for a better world …

The world we inhabit is a beautiful place.  And, there are tremendous things that are improving with, virtually every minute such as, well, our ability to communicate via tubes.  

Yet …

We live in a troubled world.  From wars, to disease, to economic inequalities, to … There are many areas where, if we act right, tomorrow could be better than today.

Yet, humanity’s very future, the ability to make that choice is at risk, our very own actions and pursuit of economic strength are imperiling the ability to make those choices.

Global Warming … Peak Oil … These fundamental issues intertwine to threaten the opportunity to pursue and achieve a progressive vision for tomorrow.  Facing these must, MUST be core to progressive politics or, well, every other progressive cause is doomed to failure.

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Was Malthus right???

Looking toward mankind’s relationship with and use of natural resources (whether fossil fuels, water, air, or otherwise), one serious question we all must ask is whether humanity has overshot. Whether

Mankind has exceeded the carrying capacity of its habitat and will have to face some sort of adjustment to go back into balance with it.

Was Malthus right? Are there, simply, limits beyond which we can’t go beyond in a sustainable fashion? And, if we’ve exceeded those limits — if we’ve facing Overshoot — what can we do about it?

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