Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oil Scorecard

From a strictly unprofessional and somewhat detached layman's perspective...

Remember back during the first oil crisis? When it just wasn't worth bringing the oil out of the ground for $15 per barrel? All the "easy' oil was gone. What remained would require at least double the cost per barrel to make it economically viable. The price went up and the oil flowed like water.

Maybe you don't, but the oil people do. America was in a position to demand cheap oil. We're not in that position anymore. The price went up. We paid it. The price went up again and we paid it again.

The most recent spike in barrel price has been driven by several only slightly related forces.

Futures markets: as money has shifted out of Real Estate based investments into commodities and currency markets. Driving oil up and the dollar down.

The somewhat stabilizing and tempering influences of futures markets have been skewed by speculators dumping insane money into the markets expecting double digit returns on quick turns. The spikes get worse as the week goes on because nobody wants to be caught short in oil should the situation devolve in some asswart speck on the oil map.

Production: Industry watchers are now asking; Why increase production and supply at $140 per barrel when the next quarter will net $180? Just leave it in the ground until then. While peak oil is very real, this isn't it yet. This is just greed and power being played out in imaginative ways because there is so much fear and uncertainty to capitalize on.

Political: The lobbying to drill in ANWR and domestically in general has stepped up to a fever pitch. High per barrel prices make the compelling case that increasing domestic production will ease the crisis. Some see this as the last/best chance at breaking the evironmental movements' back.
Seeing the Dem Congress cave on virually every issue has emboldened the environmentalists' enemies. IF the green light comes you can count on large "investment" of tax dollars in subsidies, incentives and capital offsets to
limit the risk and maximize return on purely leveraged "investment". IOW, we pay to sow again for zero return. Just the privilege to purchase the end product at even higher prices.

For the consumer, options are limited, their influence is minimal and their ability to asborb is finite. Public transportation may be part of the answer, but even that is unlikely when it's implemented as a knee-jerk response to crisis. Looking just a few months down the road when the choice between heating a home OR putting gas in the car to get to work to pay for the gas to get to work? An approaching winter of uncertainty and discontent? In an election year? Are you surprised?

This is straight out of Texas Hold-em. Will we go all-in or fold?

There really is an element that desires an even more feudal system where workers, out of fear of losing what they've managed to build, will abandon unions and give up wages and benefits to hang on to their job.

Somehow I don't think this is the kinder, gentler nation that was foretold. As we become more dog eat dog, we can pretty much forget about promise and better days.

There's a growing sense that these are the end times. Not the biblical ones, but the gravy train ones, so there's a frenzy to get what one can while one can and put distance between themselves and what's coming.

Will sanity prevail? Will we surrender the planet over to the need to put gas in the hummer? Will Lassie get help in time to pull Timmy out of the dried up mine shaft?

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