Another dreary episode of high gasoline prices and concomitant political posturing is upon us. Watching the spectacle is like eating stale leftovers from a bad restaurant complete with warmed over sound bites, gotcha lines that have gone flat, and congealed thinking, like globs of cold fat in that half a chicken-fried steak that you shouldn't have brought home.
Democrats have dusted off their usual retinue of populist slogans about price gouging, greedy speculators, and the need for a grand jury to plaster the bastards with subpoenas.
Republicans are worse, unable to bring themselves to admit that a mature industry with a lucrative business plan based on technological lock-in could do without tax breaks going on nearly a century old. Nor do they have any ideas except party hearty on fossil fuels drilling and depleting America's oil reserves as fast as possible and forcing greater dependence on the dregs of the hydrocarbon world the dirty, low-grade, high-cost stuff closer to the bottom of the barrel.
Neither is doing much to attack the root of the problem overdependence on an energy source that is traded in a global market subject to structural risk factors rising petroleum demand in China, India, and other large developing nations, turmoil in producing regions, the control of most oil reserves by state oil companies, and the move of production to remote, high-cost oil fields as the cheap and easy fields run down.
Those risk factors are only going to get riskier even if one assumes, recklessly, that fossil fuel burning will never push the world across an unseen climate threshold and send the global climate system careening off into a red zone of reinforcing feedbacks that we should stay the hell away from.
Few on either side, however, have any appetite to even discuss dosing our energy economy with the medicine it needs to begin shaking off oil overdependence and diversifying our energy assets yes, a price on carbon. Republicans don't like the Republican idea of cap-and-trade, and won't hear of a carbon tax. Meanwhile, Democrats are running from their shadows, unwilling to press any energy policies that might cause their poll numbers to wiggle.
Tough decisions that could begin attacking structural energy risks are being put off because of politics. Till at least 2013, after the next presidential election. Or 2015, after the next midterms. Or 2017, after the 2016 elections. Or, whenever.
Meanwhile, we continue to play the odds on the energy roulette wheel.
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