Monday, November 24, 2008


HEEL: Sports fans all know the routine.

You just don’t do it- don’t say it out loud. You don’t sit down, turn on the TV for the big game and say to your buddy “well this one is in the bag- we’re gonna win easy”. When your team takes a big lead late in the game you may think it but you never say “well, this one is over.”

The “jinx” factor is just too strong.... and you don’t have to be a sports fan to whistle in the graveyard or knock on wood either.

That irrationality may be the only plausible explanation for why no one wants to ask “what the heck is going on with this $1.99 a gallon gas just months after $150 a barrel ”peak oil” was redefining our future in every imaginable aspect.

Six months ago you couldn’t turn on a panel of TV talking heads without hearing detailed explanations of the hows and whys of soaring prices and the resulting imperative for a change in the very essence of our energy production and consumption.

Now it’s shhhh- don’t say anything... you’ll hex it.

Has anyone heard anything? Nope, not a peep in the press asking how the heck this price drop happened. And along with that is a severe dearth of discussion of any plans to address what was and will be a crisis again... very shortly.

We’re not much for evidence-free conspiracy theories. But that said there is little we wouldn’t put past most of corporate America.

And we’re hardly alone in thinking there’s absolutely nothing we wouldn’t put past the oil companies.

While the price for oil soared there was no end to the detailed price-fixing charges against “big oil”... not that it really took much of a jump to connect the record profits from Exxon-Mobile, Shell and the rest to the jacked up prices that seem to have no basis in reality or rational economics.

But no one- and we mean not the mainstream corporate media, not the alternative media, not even the bloggers- is questioning this brief era of cheap gas..

Now why would the oil companies conspire to lower prices beyond all reason- even more beyond reason than last Springs’s spike?

If you have to ask what Veep Chaney and his Bushy cohorts are up to, as Jon Stewart is fond of saying, you don’t know Dick.

Let’s remember the response to those high prices especially coming in the middle of a presidential election season.

While a diminishing handful of reactionary rabble were chanting “drill baby drill” the smart savvy and sane crowd could talk of nothing but a “green” energy future brought about through aggressive public and private investment in development of non-fossil, non-carbon producing alternative energy technologies

Democratic candidate Barack Obama made a huge commitment to this investment making a non-carbon renewable energy future a centerpiece of his energy policy. Even oil man T-Bone Pickens of all people became a harbinger of this new day dawning.

But T-bone’s defection notwithstanding the oil companies were predictably silent on developing unconventional energy options preferring to counter the cries with insanely-euphemistic, oxymoronic advertisements for things like “clean coal” and “green drilling” that didn’t fool anyone.

So what’s an oil company that’s been raking in obscene record profits to do, especially with the likelihood that a windfall profits tax was a top agenda item for the inevitable Obama administration and new congress?

Well if you have a few trillion in profits lying around- cash you gouged out of consumers through years of unregulated price-fixing abetted by two oil company executives in the top two executive federal chairs- the one thing you don’t want to do is see all the self-absorbed SUV-driving Americans change their gas-guzzling ways.

Well the dicks at Exxon might be malevolent but they ain’t dumb.

They knew they’d be in deep kim chee if January 20 were to roll along with high-priced gas- and alternative energy was going to be the number one issue.

High prices were bound to be perceived as, if not the sole cause, certainly the most immediate aspect exacerbating the impact of the coming economic Armageddon.

Not just their obscene profits, not just their business model, but their business itself might be swept out the door of “change”... unless....

Unless the price of oil falls off consumers’ radar screens at the very time when the plans for legislation and action are drawn up for the first year or so of an extremely busy new presidential and congressional regime.

And with the pile of cash they have been stockpiling- and the ease of raising prices back to $5 a gallon at the drop of a hat once the agenda is set to exclude a massive push for alternative fuel plans- it’s a no brainer to invest a few hundred million to lower the cost for their products.

There was only one way to assure that we sheep would go back to sleep- give us cheap gas until that window for planning closes until the devil in the details of other “change” overwhelms the D.C. policy makers..

And very soon all the money- and perhaps more importantly the legislative time and effort- that was set to be invested in research, development and infrastructure for wind, solar, geothermal, hydrogen production and distribution networks and the like will be gone.

And then welcome back to $5, $6 maybe $10 a gallon gas.

And by all means if this scenario makes sense don’t say anything. As Phil Ochs said “Monopoly is so much fun we’d hate to spoil the game”

Or as Chaney and Bush would quote Ochs as they steal the silverware on their way out, “I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends”.


Scott Foster said...

I once thought I knew something about the oil industry but I too remain in the dark about the current low price of oil.

Several thoughts:
1) Because demand is down internationally, the big producers are trying to maintain their market shares;

2) The big market speculators have mostly been taken out of the game which has produced a more level playing field keeping prices down;

3) T. Boone Pickens scared the shit out of them with his "wind corridor" idea as you suggest and the lower oil price takes the wind out of his sails (renders it not economically viable), and

4) A smattering of all of the rest that you touch on.

In any event, my guess is that oil prices will remain low for the time being simply because of the much-lower demand world wide.

If, and I do mean "if' we survive this recession/depression, perhaps enough people will have become wise enough to the reality of how politics effects their lives to focus their angst on their local politicians - those that one can get close enough to to yank their hair out. The DC folks might at least notice the ruckus back home and who knows what could happen? Sadly, in our case, given Hawaii's plantation mentality, etc., I'm not holding my breath. - Scott Foster, Communications Director, Hawai`i Advocates For Consumer Rights

Ace Harbinger said...

You may be right, Andy. At least Elisabeth Rosenthal - in today's New York Times - makes the same observation:

"Just as the world seemed poised to combat global warming more aggressively, the economic slump and plunging prices of coal and oil are upending plans to wean businesses and consumers from fossil fuel.

From Italy to China, the threat to jobs, profits and government tax revenues posed by the financial crisis has cast doubt on commitments to cap emissions or phase out polluting factories.

Automakers, especially Detroit’s Big Three, face collapsing sales, threatening their plans to invest heavily in more fuel-efficient cars. And with gas prices now around $2 a gallon in the United States, struggling consumers may be less inclined than they once were to trade in their gas-guzzling models in any case.

President-elect Barack Obama and the European Union have vowed to stick to commitments to cap emissions of carbon dioxide and invest in new green technologies, arguing that government action could stimulate the economy and create new jobs in producing sustainable energy.

But as the United Nations prepares to gather the world’s environment ministers in Poznan, Poland, next week to try to agree on a new treaty to reduce emissions, both the political will and the economic underpinnings for a much more assertive strategy appear shakier than they did even a few weeks ago."

I guess it's a bigger-fish-to-fry scenario that can't be denied. We may well be paying through the nose once again in order to do the frying.