Gas Prices Cause Phantom Pain

And Queen Elizabeth lives on a modest budget of $10k per month. No, really. CNN says that one of those statements is true:

Gas prices are once again dominating the national debate.

But despite rhetoric, high gas prices aren’t hurting as much as they used to.

Of course, this is a bit of an about-face for that particular news organization, as noted by AIM:

CNN showcases Obama’s recent rhetoric about gas prices, while conveniently neglecting to fact check any of President Obama’s claims (as CNN did when covering President Bush’s gas price rhetoric in past years).

Throughout the article, President Obama is depicted as an everyman who is just as concerned about gas prices as you are—and just as helpless as you are, too. There are “no easy answers,” the blog entry concludes, immediately after quoting President Obama’s complaint that such things as natural disasters and pirates were “not in [his] campaign platform.” “Add gas prices to the list,” CNN adds.

The blog entry is strange, given CNN’s past with holding Republican presidents accountable for fuel price spikes.

But, going back to the original CNN article, we find that gas prices are not hurting us because the amount we spend on gasoline has dropped as a percentage of our household budgets from where it was at some point in the past (like the early 1980s).

Please. The price of gasoline (and diesel) are reflected in every purchase we make of consumer goods. Food, for example, is more expensive because fuel is more expensive. The bottling company recoups the increased transport costs for its products by increasing the wholesale cost of a 12-pack of bubbly beverage. And so does everyone else.

Gas prices are simply an obvious (to everyone who drives) and daily reminder of the increased cost of things which are derived from crude oil–that product we are drilling everywhere for (except for where the oil is).

One more snipped from the original article:

Gasoline is a boring commodity, not a flashy new iPhone or pair of jeans.

“There’s no joy in purchasing gas,” said Rao. “People look at it as a tax on driving.”

Yet, it’s one of the few singular products people are regularly forced to buy.

It is, in part, a tax on driving. You know, to pay for roads and stuff. And, no one is “forced to buy” gasoline. Health insurance? Yes. Gasoline? No.

It may be a boring commodity–but your iPhone and your jeans would not be delivered to your door without it.

Jobs, Nabobs and A Pipeline

It is no secret that the President (and apparently his administration) do not want Canada to bring tar sands oil through our country to refineries in Texas via the Keystone XL pipeline.

P&R points out that the President’s very decision in the matter shows us more about his grandiose thinking than the real issues involved:

I shouldn’t have to bother with Congress.  I’m the Messiah!  Did Jesus need the disciples’ consent?  Did he have to get some silly Congress to approve?  If you’d just get these evil Republicans out of my hair, I’d work some miracles – you’ll see!

Here is real issue, though. We do not currently have–as a country–the energy we need without using fossil fuels. Canada has crude oil that we can process into a portion of those needed fuels. And, even if all the refined oil is shipped off to other countries, we benefit because of the jobs which are created to build and maintain the pipeline and to refine the fuel.

Some people seem to think that the states through which this pipeline would pass are virgin stretches of desert and prairie which are untouched by the dirty hand of man. Not so.

Are there issues to work out with the states through which the pipeline would pass including some very important questions about the proper and improper use of eminent domain? Absolutely. Last I checked, however, the states were largely in favor of this project.

It is hard to understand, as even the Washington Post notes, why Obama does not want jobs–arguably “good jobs” and tens of thousands of them:

ON TUESDAY, President Obama’s Jobs Council reminded the nation that it is still hooked on fossil fuels, and will be for a long time. “Continuing to deliver inexpensive and reliable energy,” the council reported, “is going to require the United States to optimize all of its natural resources and construct pathways (pipelines, transmission and distribution) to deliver electricity and fuel.”

It added that regulatory “and permitting obstacles that could threaten the development of some energy projects, negatively impact jobs and weaken our energy infrastructure need to be addressed.”

The Post goes on to note that the position taken on Keystone XL gives the President the immediate opportunity of removing some those self-same obstacles–since he is the one who has created them.

Here is hoping (because I have little reason to believe) that the President will get his much ballyhooed jobs laser back into focus–’cause right now I’m blinded by the scatter.

It’s In the Pipeline–Maybe

There are no benefits without costs. The Keystone XL pipeline would bring quite a bit of benefit both to businesses and the consumers in this country. Are there costs associated with the pipeline? Absolutely. One which has been brought up on several occasions is the possibility of spills/leaks. Yes, there will be leaks. Yes, there will be cleanup. No, leaks will not destroy the aquifer. No, tar sands oil is not the equivalent of liquid nuclear waste. (OK, no one has said that, to my knowledge–but based on the degree to which people are exercised over this, I am surprised it hasn’t been mentioned.)

Business Week:

Environmentalists opposed to TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline encircled the White House, urging President Barack Obama to reject the project even if it means overruling his own State Department.

“It will be the real test of his character, you know: Is he going to stand with people’s power, or oil power?” Bill McKibben, organizer of the demonstration, said in an interview after the rally in Washington yesterday whose sponsors said it drew as many as 12,000 people.

Sorry, Mr. McKibben, but Obama’s character has been tested numerous times already. If you do not know what he’s made of–then you’ve not been paying attention. You just go ahead and keep hoping his character will change.

Steven of PowerLine:

Supposedly the decision was going to be made by the end of this year, but now the White House says Obama will take his time into next year.  At the very least, Obama has decided that he’s going to really anger one faction or another.  Or he’s hoping to put it off until after the next election, when he’ll probably nix the pipeline, since he’s drunk fully of the “green energy” Kool Aid, which he and Stephen Chu apparently really think is just a few years off.  (I note that the pipeline, and the jobs it would generate, will run exclusively through red states, and who wants to reward those bitter clingers.)

Precisely.

Life Without Oil and Other Petrochemicals

I am amazed by the number of people who seem to believe that we can replace crude oil with some other energy source and everything will be lovely. Let’s suppose that we could (though the numbers say we can’t). Outside of the energy replacement issue, we have all the other products which are derived from petrochemicals. This article hits on a few of the things:

Petroleum is used in many of the medical products we take for granted. Visit any hospital or doctor’s office and you will find these items that are derived from petroleum: heart valves, artificial limbs, stethoscopes, syringes, hearing aids, vaporizers, anesthetics, antiseptics, operating gloves and equipment tubing.

In the home, petroleum is a major component of many items found in medicine cabinets and on cosmetic stands: dentures, aspirin, nasal decongestants, rubbing alcohol, deodorants, cough syrup, bandages, burn lotions, antihistamines, allergy medications, vitamins, cologne, insect repellents, moisturizers, soaps and petroleum jelly.

And that is just for starters in one area of application. For a more detailed list of the different things which we need and use which are based on petrochemicals, go check out this chart (PDF).

The short of it? If we removed everything from our lives that is based on petrochemicals, we would not recognize it. Could we replace some, or many of these products with similar products made from renewable energy sources like corn and soybeans? Of course we could–as long as we drop the Earth’s human population by some mind-blowing percentage while increasing our crop outputs dramatically. In case you are wondering, the quick answer is “No.”

Could we live without the thousands of products which are derived from black gold? Yes, as evidenced by the millions who lived before the modern age–when we figured out what to do with oil. Do we wish to go back to that simpler, yet more dangerous time?

I most assuredly do not.