Energy Dumb House Action …

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.

This is worse than meaningless.

 Just like the atrocious step of proposing a Gas Tax Holiday, this is again “leadership” giving an absolutely false message that there is something to be done about gasoline prices.  This message and political campaigns arguing for lower gasoline prices are pandering efforts that don’t help the nation (and the voting public) deal with the realities and challenges that we face.
Let us face facts: without massive change, gasoline prices have nowhere to go up but up. 
Demand is continuing to grow globally and the globe has plateaued in terms of production (Peak Oil).  And, (Peak Oil) there are very good reasons to believe that oil production will be falling in the coming years, rather than growing 50% over the next 20 years like the Bush Administration Energy Information Agency (EIA) so blithely has predicted (in face of evidence of Peak Oil).
And, oops, there is that minor little issue of Global Warming.  Hmmm … let’s scream for more production and lower prices of oil rather than battling for acceleration of paths to help people reduce their demand.
“Leadership” from the Democratic Party and the New Direction Congress?
  • 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.
And, with all this, the New Direction Congress could continue and expand its serious discussion about the need to move forward to sensible energy policy.  Sensible energy policy including serious royalty increases on oil and natural gas (and coal) to pay for moving forward on energy efficiency in our transport system (not just automobiles, but the full system). 
To be clear, the New Direction Congress has worked to move toward more sensible energy policy.  We’ve had much of this from the New Direction Congress, I want to acknowledge clearly, but clearly we need more forceful action and, if we can’t get things enacted, the Democratic Party leadership needs to make it clear where the obstacle lies to getting things done.
Passing this bill was (and is) a sad statement, on multiple levels. 
To take the language that I use, this was simply Energy Dumb. 



3 responses to “Energy Dumb House Action …

  1. How about smaller engines in cars in the USA, it’s become a key factor in Europe, and should be on the agenda in the US.

    Much as tinkering with tyre pressures etc has a helpful effect on consumption, choosing a low emission, small engine or even hybrid engine has a much greater global effect.

    Sorry to say it, but what’s catching up with the US is the reality we have been facing in the UK for some years.

    Come on in and join the rest of us!

  2. Rob,

    I don’t disagree. These were ideas about what can be done “today”, within the reality of today’s capital stock, that would have impact on “today’s” gasoline usage. Now, if you want to talk about ‘tomorrow’ and the ‘day after tomorrow’, there are a huge range of things to be done.


    Lets drill in the ANWR its not a fragle area like the green freaks have been telling us its a good area and the citizens of ALASKA dont want the jerks from GREENPEACE telling them anything

    Thank you for your eloquent contribution and substance to support your claims about the environmental issues related to ANWR.

    Point is, addressing your eloquent points, is that ANWR would provide only a very small percentage of US requirements and not deliver into the economy for a decade or so. ANWR feeds our addiction, doesn’t solve problems.

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