Friday, September 19, 2008

Political Rant (You've Been Forewarned...)

So I'm leaning Democratic this fall. Here's one reason: long-term energy. Democrat solution: newer, greener technologies. A long-term perspective. Republican solution: drill more.

Pardon the sarcasm, but let me see if I've got this straight: oil and oil-related products are increasing in price, largely because there's a limited supply and an unlimited demand. So our solution is to use up said limited resource at an even faster rate? Seems just a tad short-sighted, doesn't it? And in our mad dash to use up the last of our dwindling resources, why not trash the planet along the way?*

I know the Democrats have been a little light on the details, and some of the suggestions (properly inflated tires?) seem ridiculous in light of the magnitude of the problem - but aren't they at least headed in the right direction: reduced consumption, other sources of energy? Isn't that where we're going to have to end up anyway?

And another thing - I'm a fiscal conservative (smaller government, free markets... if that's not a fiscal conservative, that's what I meant) and I'm sick of one-way conservatives. It's pretty duplicitous to say we believe in free markets, but only if it means consumer prices go down. Oil is getting more scarce and it’s being used more so the free market is dictating that prices go up - simple supply (going down) and demand (going up). The genius of the free market system is that the increased price of oil and oil-related stuff will spur innovation and creativity to find better, cheaper energy sources. Keeping the price of oil down is short-sighted and will only hamper our transition to the next energy supply.

So I'm happy gas is more expensive; heck, bring on $10/gallon!

Actually, I've been thinking about this for awhile now (time warp - most of the above was written when I was in a more rant-ish type mood; now I'm a little more contemplative) and I think efforts to find a new source of energy are being hindered because we're focused on switching out oil with something new while still maintaining our consumption habits. Consider your personal range; by that I mean the distance you're willing to travel and still consider it 'convenient'. Another way to think of it, what length of trip do you consider significant enough that you block off a whole day for that one trip? What if that distance was drastically reduced? Maybe our culture should shift such that all our day-to-day activities are accessible by bike and foot, and any travel beyond that is done by airplane. What is the airline industry if not a worldwide mass transit system? We'd sure save a lot of oil not making those big long oil-strips we call highways. The infrastructure requirements of long distance air travel are so minimal in comparison to the automobile it's not even funny.

Well, all that aside, I do think that these are just the beginnings of a multi-generational shift in the way humanity views, uses, and consumes energy. The transition hasn't even really begun here; I don't have the data, but I'd hazard a guess that the average cost of fuel and the average commute length in America have charted a similar trajectory over the past 30 years.

Well, thanks for listening. I feel better already. What do you think?

*Editor's Note - that last little jab isn't entirely fair; the oil industry is quite clean in comparison to other natural resource industries. The mining industry, for instance, does hundreds of times more environmental damage than the oil industry. But that's beside the point.

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