The rising price of oil has been hard to miss lately, in the news and on the wallet. It seems everywhere you turn, people are running around yelling “the sky is falling!” or more appropriately “oil is rising!” Hell, even CNN has an entire section dedicated to it. There seems to be a shortage, an increase of demand or both. I’m sure the instability of the Middle East plays a rather large hand in this too. Regardless, hybrids are starting to get a boost in sales (I’ve even seen front-row, rockstar parking spots labeled “Hybrids Only” right next to or closer than the “Handicapped” spots). It’s rumored that, like the big Caprice Classics of the ’70s, SUVs are on their deathbed – which amuses me even more when I think of how many people just buy Hummers and Cadillac Escalades as status symbols.
This whole gas ordeal really bothers me, but not in the way you would think. You really won’t hear me complain about gas prices or about having to fill up my Chevy pickup truck (my least-efficient car weighing in at ~17 mpg): it was my choice to buy it in the first place and I choose to continue to fill it up and drive it. So what do I think of the rising gas prices (in-part contributing to economic strife)? Eh, who cares. At this point, the U.S. is just catching up with gas prices around the world (Limey, in Germany, pay’s in excess of $9 per gallon). Everyone’s paying higher prices… and the economy will rebound at some point anyway: what goes up must go down, or vice-versa depending on your perspective.
So here’s what really bothers me about the current situation:
- Extremism. There’s been a huge influx of people hopping on the “green” bandwagon lately: “the environment’s going to shit, global warming, pollution, and mankind is to blame! To a certain degree, I do think that mankind affects the world around him in some not-so-stellar ways… but not nearly to the degree that the news or groups advertise. The way I see it, mankind may ever-so-slightly help or hinder whatever is naturally going on with our environment around us. This includes space – the Sun will only get hotter with time and Earth commonly flips magnetic fields (which will also only get weaker with time). For those that are wondering what the hell magnetic fields have to do with anything, they shield Earth from even more “global warming” and “the world is ending” events – and guess what? Mankind’s use of oil or burning of forests, etc has absolutely no influence on this! But of course, we’re pre-wired to be self-centered and self-important. Remember that the Sun once revolved around the Earth, so of course mankind has to be the primary reason for changes in the environment!
Again, I’ll caveat this with what I alluded to above: I do believe that we can slightly accelerate or delay whatever nature deems is in the cards. So in that respect, it definitely doesn’t hurt to go out of your way and recycle or be more emission-aware. I’m all for it! I mean, would you rather live in a neat, taken-care-of backyard or one from West Virginia where half your belongings rest in disrepair and rust? But you’re sorely mistaken if you put weight in scare tactics that claim that man will bring down the Earth in the span of 100 years (give or take a few hundred). The Earth, the environment and life were all present long before mankind, and will continue to press on regardless of what we do.
- Hypocrisy and Victimization. Maybe the news is hyping it up a little, but all I really hear is complaining about the gas prices. Talk is cheap. If it sucks that bad, then find another means of transportation. Most of the complaining seems to come from those that buy “status symbol” cars (ie, the Hummer H2 when you live downtown or a fast V10-powered sports car). I think if you’ve put practical thought into what vehicle you bought, then the rise in gas prices is more a minor nuisance. And if you do own a Hummer or like car, stand by your decision to own it and are not complaining about gas prices, then good on you!
- Lack of Self-Reliance. How do you take a powerful nation and bring it to its knees? A war or invasion could work, but why not just starve it of a resource that it’s completely reliant on? Right now, the Middle East sits on top of petroleum-rich land. Sure it’s no problem to rely on the Middle East’s resources when it contains harmless Muslim-run countries that seem to trail modern thought and society by 500 years. Let them do their thing and we’ll do our thing, and by the way, thanks for the gas. But in the past 20-30 years, the extreme ideology that festers there has no longer remained passive. It has since turned into a powder keg of in-your-face barbarianism. And yet we still rely on, and even cater to, them to get the one resource we seemingly need: oil. Whatever happened to independence, creativity and forging our own path? That’s what I thought Western culture was built on. It’s easy: either find a way and utilize a means to capitalize on our own petroleum resources, or find another alternative to petroleum that we can do in-house.
- Prolonging the Problem. In order to “solve” the current situation, the government is questioning the big oil companies. Car companies have come up with ways to get more out of gas or to cut it out altogether with hybrid or electric technology. This is like taking a rusty, leaking submarine and patching it with duct tape. To me, these are all temporary fixes to prolong the current situation. Hybrids get a better bang for the buck but they still rely on gas. Electric cars bypass gas entirely but at the price of an increase in electric consumption, which entails more coal burning or nuclear reactions to produce the electricity (and the current battery technology still has limited practicality). Isn’t it time for a completely new fix? Perhaps one that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels?
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. Granted, I don’t know how much or what kind of energy it would take to “manufacture” hydrogen for gas stations, but I do know the technology is there. Hydrogen emissions are harmless. I firmly believe hydrogen is the way of the future for vehicles, and it’s attainable now. So why not use it?
The solution to me is easy: become self-reliant, solve the “gas problem” and switch to hydrogen. The problem now lies in greed. If oil companies and car companies (and all their investors) are making a profit on the current situation, then why change it? Of course, they will milk gas as long as they can turn a dollar before they look to alternatives. And in the meantime, it’s easy to put up a front and say you’re doing something about it. It’s evident in America’s history that big changes can occur in a short period of time with the proper motivation: WWII brought a huge leap in technology with the introduction of the jet engine (for Germany) and scientists working around the clock to invent the atomic bomb (for America), and the 1950’s ushered in billions of dollars to put a man on the Moon by 1969.
Personally, I hope oil companies continue to increase the gas prices. Ideally, here’s what I’d like to happen:
Gas prices keep increasing. The greedy businessmen and politicians that have their hands in the oil business will probably keep making money, while the rest of society gets extremely frustrated. Frustration, by the way, can be extremely good motivation. That frustration will pave the way to accelerate the demand of a new source of energy. Once that energy arrives (I’ll assume hydrogen here), Western culture will all but turn their backs on petroleum (hell, and then Middle Eastern extremism would have to look elsewhere to fund their barbarianism). Who knows? Maybe “karma” will even bite back at the oil and car companies that resist the change. Then again, businesses follow money and if there’s a sniff of money in hydrogen, I’m sure they’ll jump the oil ship and conform.