Big Oil Isn't the Problem, Stop Picking on Them
0 comment Saturday, September 20, 2014 |
Today we heard about the record profits three big oil companies have pulled in this quarter, some of which are the largest for any American company, ever. Besides the treat of getting to use superlatives to accurately describe something, this news for me is aggravating, because I know it will be followed by cries to tax these firms' "windfall profits"* or regulate the consumer price of their products.
Let me go on record as a bike commuter. I love big oil, they aren't the problem, but far from it. Let's take it step by step, shall we:
The first problem is that the alternative to big oil is small oil. In Colorado, we actually do have some elements of small oil, and let me tell you, you don't want to be buying your gasoline from a mom and pop refinery. Big oil allows economies of scale, better accountability in the event of an accident, better products, and more streamlined delivery of all things oil. The only thing bad about big oil versus small is that the big firms keep oil products low priced, thus enhancing their attractiveness to the marketplace, or put another way, they were so good at selling Americans their product cheaply that we got dependent.
Which brings me to my second point. Our entire economy is dependent on cheap oil, and now we are cranky that it is not as cheap as it once was. Hey, it's still cheap! You buy a gallon of this substance, put it in a machine, and it will take you and cargo somewhere North of 30 miles, all for the low price of four dollars... show me any other mode of transit that will take you anywhere you want to go for four dollars (of course, bikes will do that easily, though more than a few pounds of cargo can be a problem).
Third, while oligarchs, monarchs and aristocrats control most foreign oil firms, the ones in the good old US of A are owned by primarily pension funds and mutual funds. The money that goes into your retirement account every month will probably end up owning some amount of oil company stock, at least if your pension's investment managers are on top of things. So taxing oil companies will mainly hurt investors, the bulk of which are middle class folks with retirement accounts to fill.
Four, what other successful businesses do we think we should tax more because they make big profits? Google makes big profits, I depend on them, why don't we ask for some of their windfall profits? Or do we mean "undeserved" profits. Well I think the oil companies deserve every penny of their profits. While I'll stick with anyone who says we should end their subsidies, taking their profits is a terrible idea.
Lastly, oil companies are not in the renewable energy business, let's stop acting like they should be. They have perfected pumping, shipping, and refining oil into useful products. Why should they be expected to make ethanol, or solar panels, or wind turbines... I assure you, if there was a lot of money to be made there, they would be interested, or at least interested enough to buy stock in the companies that are making renewable energy. Exxon isn't a charity, nor is it your government, tell those folks to invest in something we find more palatable. Exxon sells oil, not good feelings.
So back to bikes, since this is a bike blog, and here I am rambling about oil. I don't mind that gas costs $4 a gallon, and I wish it cost $8 a gallon. That's because for 95% of my traveling, I don't depend on gas; I've made several very conscious choices that allow me to not depend on anything but my muscles, my state of fitness, and the good behavior of cars on the roads fpr my daily transit (Sure, prices of things like food affect me, but I'd be willing to pay more for all of that if it meant fewer cars on the road).
I want $8 a gallon gas so that there are more people making this decision. I want car culture to shrivel from it's dominance in America. The fact that 16 year olds get keys to a rolling coffin and cruise some main drag while increasing in girth on milkshakes and video games is a real problem to me. Can't we get every 12 or 13 year old a bike instead, and let them keep it into adulthood? Can't we engineer our environment to be safer for someone who propels themself? Our cities are built so that anyone without a car is disadvantaged in getting around safely, this is a problem, and only expensive gas will solve it.
Car Culture is the problem, not big oil. Let them have their money, and if Americans are that bent out of shape about it, every complainer needs to make some tough choices that will make their life less dependent on this wonderful product.
I realize I am now in an absolute rant, primarily to fellow daily bike commuters, so I apologize, but if we can't preach to the choir, who else will listen. I will stop now, thanks for reading.
*PS: Not to pick on Barack Obama too much, John McCain's gas tax holiday idea is far worse, but both are foolish solutions to the real problem, Car Culture.

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