Ranking up there with the Energy Dumb concept of a Gas Tax Holiday, the US House of Representatives passed (on a 324-84 vote) a bill to authorize the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and conspiring to set crude oil prices. The Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act seeks to apply US antitrust laws to OPEC members, just as they apply for US companies.
While it is true that OPEC does “conspire” to control oil prices, the time has passed where OPEC has meaningful control over supply (other than an ability to shut down world supply, perhaps in anger over arrogant US legislation?). As Joe Romm recently wrote, Note to media/Bush: Saudis/OPEC don’t control the price of oil any more!
Unlike the 1970s and 1980s and even much of the 1990s, neither OPEC nor the Saudis no longer control the price of oil.
This legislation is, perhaps, 30 years too late.
And, this legislation is quite likely to anger OPEC members who (along with China) have a tremendous amount of ownership stake in, for example, US treasury bonds and now have a role in the US economy well beyond their share of the oil that is burned in US SUVs.
And, even worse, it sends entirely the wrong signal to the American public (including the voting public) about what we face as individuals, as a nation, as a global society with Peak Oil, global economic growth, and Global Warming.
This legislation suggests that the problem is one of market manipulation and of people controlling the spigot to spite the American consumer. This type of legislation encourages people to look back toward $1 gasoline rather than to look forward (and prepare better) for the coming $10 gallon of gas.
- How about multiple hearings about what people can do to make their driving more efficient?
- How about campaign staffs/volunteers, the weekends after the hearings, going out to gasoline stations with air pressure gauges checking peoples’ tires and filling up tires that are under pressure. (A path for a 5-10% jump in fuel efficiency, with a high percentage of cars without adequate air pressure. Other examples of ‘quick’ fixes include air filters, aligning wheels, etc .. air pressure is cheapest (usually free) and something campaigns could do as ‘volunteer’ action to help spread the message about paths toward driving more efficiently.)
- How about emergency legislation for actions that will actually lead to reduced gasoline use in a quick and sensible manner. How about these two concepts as the type of thing that Democratic leadership could hold hearings and support ’emergency’ legislation to foster:
- Improved traffic management / signals: Studies show the potential for a 10% reduction in US congestion through improved traffic signaling and management. That congestion translates quite directly into increased fuel use (along with lost productivity). Could some money into the FHA/otherwise spur movement toward capturing some of that efficiency? Doing this would show leadership efforts that could have tangible impacts quickly. (And, lower fuel use and lower Global Warming and make people happier and …)
- Efforts to encourage/drive compressed work weeks and telecommuting options for as many American workers as possible. Could, in major cities, 20% of the workforce end up in compressed/telecommuting? If that translate to roughly 1/4th fewer commutes across that 20%, that would mean about 5% fewer commuters per day, which would have a multiplicative impact on reducing congestion, reduced fuel use, make people happier, etc …
- And, want more ideas? Pulsing the energy blogging community could probably provide 10 steps that could end up having meaningful impact in less than a year … if anyone wanted to take meaningful actions.