$6 per gallon? Get ready.


Jim Wooten is howling because energy legislation being debated right now might move the US toward a more sensible and sustainable energy policy which could result in rising prices. What he’s not talking about is that the prices are going up anyway:

The tax is to subsidize wind and solar power, hybrid vehicles and biofuel. The bill calls for a sharp increase in the use of “renewables” including heavily-subsidized ethanol, up from 8.5 billion gallons next year to 36 billion gallons by 2022. And it requires, too, that utilities would be required to buy at least 15 percent of their energy from wind, solar and other “renewable” sources.

This is all a Good Thing. Expect to hear more of this type of whining from the oil-subsidy generation as supplies get more scarce and we move toward a world of skyrocketing demand, limited supply, and carbon taxation. On the supply side, no matter how much new oil may be found, it’s highly doubtful it can be produced fast enough to prevent a huge runup in prices worldwide.

As policymakers are forced to begin to address the effects of the massive fossil-fuel guzzling party of the last century, the spoiled RV/SUV kiddies used to getting their energy for nearly free will be throwing fits. The only consolation is that it’s finally becoming a matter of the governments’ interest to move toward sustainability–it will be the only way to protect the economy and ensure sufficient and uninterruptible energy supplies.

Yes, it will cost a little more. It’s hard to get off the government tit when you’ve been used to ignoring all the hidden costs of fossil-fuels, (roughly $5.00 to $15.00 per gallon, depending on what you include) coal-pollution respiratory deaths, consequences of climate change, or the lives of our soldiers protecting some of the world’s last great oilfields in Iraq. For those who understand and embrace sustainability, the changes can’t come soon enough.

For the rest of the clueless American energy hogs–they’re about to get the petro-needle jerked out of their arms. The ethanol subsidy and energy-balance argument is partially true, but corn ethanol is only a stepping stone to far better liquid biofuels such as cellulose-based ethanol or biodiesel. Hopefully many of us will also be driving electric cars within a few years, so it might not matter as much what liquid fuels cost. One thing’s for sure, we’re in for some changes. Rising production of biofuels can’t help but provide a buffer against the inevitable rise in oil prices. Since politicians always get the blame when the price of necessities rise, it would behoove them to pursue a rational energy policy which includes renewables.

It’s too bad more people can’t see these benefits. It’s especially disgusting to hear advocates of a “free-market” blithely ignoring the status quo of massive government oil-subsidy and the near-giveaway of national mineral resources to developers who then sell this public resource back to the public. Then when the domestic “free” resource begins to run out, they consider the taxpayer should militarily and at great cost protect access to the foreign sources of the same resource, also ignoring that every dollar sent overseas is going to people who’d like to see us destroyed.

Consequently every rise in fossil-fuel prices is a step in the direction of a cleaner environment, energy security, energy efficiency, and newly vibrant economy with a far lower trade deficit. People like Jim Wooten, who call themselves conservatives, are standing for waste, inefficiency, unconsciousness, and ‘market-failure.’ They’re supporting taxpayer giveaways to the largest corporations, huge trade deficits, and endless committments in foreign adventurism. Don’t be fooled by their appeals to ‘freedom’. They’re playing on American’s short-sighted greed for seemingly cheap energy to get us to keep fiddling while the last of the fossil-fuels are burned.


World Gas Prices (somewhat out of date but still makes the point):
world gas prices

World gasoline price and taxes (2005):

world gas taxes

A relatively recent 2007 survey from USA Today:

Gas prices on April 17 or 18. Data for EU countries were provided by the AA Motoring Trust. Prices are listed in U.S. dollars
United Kingdom
Czech Republic
United States
Saudi Arabia

Comments (17 comments)

Chris / June 22nd, 2007, 11:54 am / #1

Great story dad. Really puts things into perspective. Were in Florida today on our way to Fort Lauderdale from Orlando. When we stopped to get gas, we put in the usual 80$ which pretty much fills the tank on an average day. When the pump stopped and Dash turned on the Van, the gauge only read half a tank. Astonished, he looked at the price of unleaded 87 and found that we had just paid almost 4.50 a gallon! YIKES! At the time we were all pretty pissed as you could imagine. But now that Ive read this story, I find myself looking back with a little smile on my face. Hooray for progress! Down with tyrany! And a toast to the future! Somebody better make a fucking electric van soon.

BlackSun / June 22nd, 2007, 12:07 pm / #2

Chris, I know it hits especially hard for people who make their living on the road. I’m not sure why they overcharged you–sorry that happened.

What I’m getting at is that higher prices are the only thing that will change behavior. No one can make a profit selling electric vehicles so long as gas is dirt cheap. No one will ask themselves if they really need a 3-ton truck just to drive around if the gas to fill it costs next to nothing. But when it routinely costs upwards of $100 to fill a gas tank, people will make other choices. In your case, you couldn’t use a smaller vehicle with 7 people and equipment. You have nothing to apologize for.

But in the developing world, you see pickup trucks going down the road all the time with 20-30 people riding on them. We have no sense of proportion in this country as to what cheap energy has done for us. Our response instead of being wise and grateful for our conveniences has been to become more cavalier and wasteful.

Rising prices help communicate the tightening world energy situation, and put us in touch with what that energy really means to us. Legislation to continue to keep prices artificially low will only postpone dealing with the problem, and will make the economic pain of the transition worse in the long run.

Jeff / June 22nd, 2007, 3:52 pm / #3

Sean, some random thoughts:

I remember reading that Hugo Chavez, on a visit to NY, remarked about how strange it was to see so many cars and trucks with only a driver.

I remember listening to G. Gordon Liddy’s radio show about 8 years ago, and he recommended all his listeners to buy SUVs, seriously. (I like to listen to my enemies. For instance, I watch Bill O’Lielly)

I remember Dick Cheney saying something to the effect that “Conservation is not a viable part of American energy policy.” This was roughly in 2001, when he secretly met with oil lobbyists, etc. to let them write our energy policy.

Electric cars have drawbacks. If the electricity used to power them comes from dirty coal plants, it seems to be a no-win situation. For the near future, I think hybrids are the most sensible and realistic solution. With a big fat gas tax like they have in most parts of Europe.

BlackSun / June 22nd, 2007, 4:10 pm / #4

Jeff, solar power will be cost competitive with coal by 2010–if they can make the panels fast enough.

This is just in time for the rollout of the electric cars. Put up a set of panels, save the planet, poke a sharp stick in the eye of Al-Qaeda, and help the U.S. economy–all in one.

Adron / June 23rd, 2007, 1:50 pm / #5

Eh. The only problem I see with massive regulation, subsidy, and legislation of this type is that it is what gave us cars, highways, interstates, and over dependance on oil in the first place.

So the Government is now attempting to fix what it broke in the first place. Before the US had 220,000 miles of privately operated and maintained rail systems with almost 50,000 miles of electric lines. It kept cities built compact without destroying massive tracts of farmland that surrounded cities.

Now we have 142,000 miles of privately operated and maintained rail systems with suppressed pricing capabilities because of subsidy hand outs that remain for the tractor trailer and interstate commerce. We’re down to about 100-300 miles of electrified tracks and are struggling to maintain any type of passenger service, all because we’ve gone from a 1-2% Government expenditure on transportation to over 40% subsidies on most systems (freight rail doesn’t get it).

So we’re expecting, and they’re working toward, furthering the regulation and mandates for supposed “environmental” needs by the entity that gave us the “needs” to fix the problems in the first place.

I just seriously doubt we’ll end up in a better situation 10-20 or 30 years from now because of legislative bureaucratic increases to fix what was already fixed.

Band aids on more band aids don’t stop the bleeding, sometimes you have to rip the band aids out and get the stitches out. Either way the ideal is to take the band aids or stitches off eventually. Not walk around with them permanently. If we are to do that, our standard of living will continually be decreased.

I look forward to a better and more sustainable economy, but the Government action will be nothing if technology and the people of the nation don’t take real actions toward sustainability and such. The Government acting this way does nothing for the majority of the nation, as many do, they will just ignore, waste, and push the feds to become even more encroaching. Hell at some point they’ll be forcing us to use ethanol (even though it is NOT sustainable in the US) and condemning atheists all in one stroke.

I personally want my liberty, and I’ll take my walking and streetcars over the damned ethanol mess the Bushies are pushing on us.

Jeff / June 23rd, 2007, 5:41 pm / #6

Crazy Out-of-the-box Idea that probably wouldn’t work: Imagine something that could reduce pollution, energy use and obesity…to a small degree.

My idea is to subsidize all fitness centers in America so they can install stationary bikes that generate electricity. Each bike would have a display showing how much energy is being produced…5 cents…7 cents, etc. It could motivate people to exercise more and the energy generated, while tiny for one stationary bike, a bank of ten bikes in tens of thousands of fitness centers could maybe replace the need for a coal plant or three.

Combined with a lot of Google-modified Priuses, this could maybe make a dent as far as reducing coal burning.

Quote from story above:

“Vehicle-to-grid links. The growing number of plug-in hybrid owners could sell the power stored in their cars’ batteries to utility companies using special hookups to the utilities’ power grid. Google believes utilities would be happy to buy that juice instead of paying very high prices for additional electricity during peak demand, such as 100-degree days when customers are running their home air conditioning full blast.”

BlackSun / June 24th, 2007, 2:25 pm / #7

Band aids on more band aids don’t stop the bleeding, sometimes you have to rip the band aids out and get the stitches out. Either way the ideal is to take the band aids or stitches off eventually. Not walk around with them permanently. If we are to do that, our standard of living will continually be decreased.

Which is why I want to see oil subsidies removed. I’m more concerned about that than I am about support of alternatives. If people paid the true price for oil, the alternatives would sell themselves. Re: ethanol, I think the corn ethanol is an environmental and economic nightmare (previous post). But the follow-on cellulose based ethanol will take us down a path that is far more sustainable. Even now, in Brazil they are using ethanol as the basis for a whole new chemistry to provide everything from plastics on down. There is so much wasted biomass which could solve most of our liquid fuel problems. The biggest barrier to this is still-cheap petroleum.

@Jeff, yes, V2G is a very promising load-balancing technology

Engineer-Poet / June 25th, 2007, 11:05 pm / #8

I left Yosemite on Sunday, 5/27. Heading for Mono Lake, the Mobil Mart at the crossroads had diesel priced at $4.099/gallon!  (It had only been $3.439 up at Crane Flats.)  A half-mile north into town, the local towing operation was selling it for $3.299…. full serve.  As a bonus, the proprietor told us about Mono-Kone, which not only had good sandwiches, they had better-than-decent eggrolls.  Not a bad find in the middle of nowhere.

It pays to do a little shopping.

I don’t see the all-electric van coming along for a few years.  Technology like the Zebra batteries are probably too expensive for long-range vehicles yet.  What I think we’re likely to see is PHEVs in all categories, with turbocompounded diesel sustainer engines.  The compounding turbine will extract useful energy from the remaining expansion pressure, and the electric systems will eliminate the difficulties of trying to couple its output via a mechanical transmission.  Heavy trucks and vehicles with towing or high-economy options may have a bottoming-cycle engine running off the exhaust heat.

I’ve been back for 3 weeks and still haven’t burned half a tank of fuel yet.

BlackSun / June 26th, 2007, 6:22 am / #9

E-P, yes, there’s certainly a lot of gouging going on–especially in remote locations. I remember back in the heady days of $1.50 gas there was this station on U.S. Highway one that was charging $3.75. The nearest gas was 100-150 miles away. I bought myself 5 gallons and left in disgust. Now that would be considered a high but still close to average price.

In a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see $10/gallon gas. Here’s a MSM (sort of) story about the rising oil-demand. There’s really nothing to put the brakes on rising domestic fuel prices except for a strong surge in ethanol/butanol/biodiesel production.

Also interesting is the coming little discussed export crisis–whereby traditional exporting nations have a few percentage point drop in annual production, which combines with their own rising internal demand to knock huge quantities of oil off the international market in the next few years.

tobe38 / June 26th, 2007, 2:44 pm / #10

Sorry mate, I’ve tagged you.

Aaron Kinney / June 26th, 2007, 4:41 pm / #11

Dont look now, Blacksun, but some Canadian WWE wrestler killed his family and himself and placed a Bible next to the bodies of his son and wife. God strikes again!

Im covering all the insanity at Kill The Afterlife. Of course, he has been inducted into the Offspring Murder Club…

Engineer-Poet / June 26th, 2007, 4:47 pm / #12

Gouging?  Charging for convenience isn’t gouging, it’s differentiation.  I traded a little inconvenience for about $12 of savings.  Nobody stopped anyone else from doing the same.

BlackSun / June 26th, 2007, 4:54 pm / #13

E-P, wrong word–gouging. I just meant to say that sometimes the price is higher in remote locations. My son just paid $4.50 on the road. I don’t mind when the overall price goes up, which was the point of the post of course. It will be good news for sustainability when we get higher prices across the board. The sooner that happens, the sooner we’ll all be buying biofuels, electric autos, etc.

Abogada de la Diabla / June 27th, 2007, 9:15 am / #14

Well written piece, Black Sun. This will be my answer to every idiot who wants cheap gas. I guess I’ll just have to carry a printout around with me.

Engineer-Poet / June 27th, 2007, 4:54 pm / #15

FTM, I don’t think that charging a lot for fuel in remote areas is “gouging”.  It costs money to ship fuel, money to build in remote places, money to pay people to live and work in remote places.  Regulating fuel prices in the boonies would probably put lots of those stations out of business.  I’d much rather see high prices with available fuel than no fuel at all (which is, not coincidentally, what has happened throughout history when prices have been held below market levels).

It makes me think of people saying “Aw, the heck with it” and buying a bunch of PV panels to charge their PHEVs.  In other words, something devoutly to be wished for.

Engineer-Poet / June 27th, 2007, 4:55 pm / #16

BTW, I hate the way this software hijacks alt-B and forces me to to use the mouse to get to the next bookmark.

$6.00 Dollar A Gallon Gas - - / July 9th, 2011, 6:42 am / #17

[…] By BlackSun / June 21st, 2007 / Energy Transition / Comments (17) […]

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