Saturday, June 7, 2008

Price-Per-Barrel, Band-Aids and Bludgeons

Arguably, the single most important issue in the U.S. economy is the current unprecedented rate of increase in the price-per-barrel of crude oil. Unarguably, our “Leaders” are still offering no well thought-out cohesive plan to address this matter that’s been in crisis-mode since 1973. Instead, they continue to offer Band-Aids and Bludgeons.

Band-Aids are things like the gas-tax holiday endorsed by Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain or Congress calling in oil company executives to yell at them about their morally questionable level of profits. While these actions illicit gut-level reactions, they’re not solutions. They are, at best, Band-Aids.

Bludgeon describes how politicians use this to beat on each other. Democrat Presidential Candidate Barack Obama provides a classic example of this. He uses this as yet another opportunity to use the disingenuous phrase “Bush/McCain” and to lay the blame for this crisis at the feet of his political opponent. This completely ignores the fact that every President, Senator (including himself) and Member of Congress, since 1973, has screwed this pooch. Instead of a true “Change” to true leadership that leads to much-needed real solutions, we get the same old political expedience of just blaming the other guy any chance you get. The result? No real solutions, just more Bludgeons.

Well, I’ve had enough! In late 1978, when I was 30, I accepted a promotion and moved from Indiana to Southern California. When I got there, I found that you could only get gas on alternating days, depending on the ending number of your car’s license plate. And, on those alternating days, you’d still have to wait in line for gas, hoping that the filling station you’d picked didn’t run out. To make matters worse, the price for gas was approaching an outrageous $1.00 per gallon! I remember the Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson saying, “Just wait. Once gas gets to $1.00 a gallon, there will be all the gas you want.” I guess he was right. Once there was enough supply, the price didn’t seem to matter that much and not much changed.

So, here we are, 30 years later, I’m now 60, I’ve moved from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest, gas is over $4.00 per gallon and finally, something about our nation’s energy dependence is beginning to change … our driving habits. Charles Krauthammer addresses this well in his recent column entitled “At $4, Everybody Gets Rational”. Once the price exceeded $4.00 a gallon, it did matter to us and the change in our behavior is forcing the “Captains of Industry” to respond.

I guess that’s a good thing and that Krauthammer is right … Its too bad that it takes this sort of “gun to the head” circumstance to change our driving habits but that key needs to remain in place if, as a nation, we’re ever going to achieve energy independence. But, this involves the behavior of “Followers”. What about the behavior of our “Leaders”?! Where is their cohesive plan, now 35 years overdue, that: Safely produces more domestic crude oil and refined product, includes rational and expedient development of alternative fuels, leverages pricing for the products that OPEC imports from the U.S., etc.?

Certainly, I’m not alone in my views on this and I’m confident I’m not even in the minority. What I’ve pointed out up to now isn’t exactly “news”. The question remaining is what do we, as individuals, do about this? Well, we can still “throw the rascals out” with the power of our vote. After 35 years of inaction, whether they have a “D” or an “R” (or any other party-affiliation) after their names, they deserve to be thrown out. If, in over a third of a century, they can’t address such a clearly urgent matter, which can just as clearly be resolved, how can we rely on them for other concerns and why shouldn’t we give “the other guys” a chance to do better?

For me, the time to act is now. I look at what has happened while our “Leaders” have continued to let this matter drift since I was 30. We can’t “unscramble that egg” but lets have enough concern for where our nation will be 30 years from now, to put true Leaders in place who will do better than just continue to let us “go with the flow” into oblivion. There’s no telling if I’ll see 90 but, if things don’t change, I imagine my departure having to be much less elegant than my arrival. I plan to be cremated. Without significant change, I imagine that my Wife and dog will have to drag me to some designated public spot where two sticks can be rubbed together to get me started and I can be used as fuel for something, including the smoke-signals that are used to relay the news of my passing. Part of why I imagine that black-comedy scene is to try to make myself laugh to keep from crying. I do not want to spend my “Golden Years” in depression, both economically and emotionally, as a result of what we allow to continue to happen to our great nation. So, I’m going to do what I can, including doing all I can to “throw the rascals out”. That means I will not vote for anyone, at any level, who isn’t supporting a well thought-out cohesive plan for our nation’s energy-independence. Can I make a difference alone? No. But, if I’m right, that I’m not in the minority on this and those who agree act in unison with me, we will make a difference. In addition to being a difference that keeps my sorry ash from going up in smoke signals we can make a significant and true “Change” that keeps our nation on its course of greatness.