Moaning about gas prices? No phone, no moan
They say it would take an Act of God to get Congress to ignore the environ-nuts and allow us to increase domestic oil and gas production in both the lower-48 and Alaska. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are Acts of God. But God may need your help.
Fossil fuel prices respond to the Law of Supply and Demand. Right now, Supply is low and Demand is high. What we pay at the pump is a combination of the price of crude oil on the world market, gasoline production and delivery costs, plus wages for: the geologists who find it, the oil field workers, the refinery workers and those who transport it via pipeline or tankers and, of course, profits for those who risk their capital in oil companies.
But we need a mechanism to prevent gas-price gouging at the retail level. Congress should legislate that the selling price for the gasoline a retailer has in his or her tanks must stay the same until those tanks are virtually empty. Prices can only be raised when and if the tanks are refilled by gasoline that bears a higher price. If lower-priced gasoline is delivered, then it must be sold at that lower price. Hello, Congress. This is not rocket science.
High demand for fossil fuels is being driven by Red China, India, Japan and other Pacific Rim countries and by the recent tax cuts that ended our recession and jump-started our current economic recovery. Thankfully, the socialist economies of the Old Europe are in the economic dumper or our supplies would be even shorter.
Actually, we could fix the Supply side. We are sitting on about 300 years of coal. But we must develop ways to burn coal more cleanly. If we stopped buying oil from OPEC, our lower-48 oil supply will last about 20 years. But if we open more of Alaska and do more with Canadian oil sands, we can add another decade or so to that. Moreover, we must learn how to produce fuels from elements like hydrogen and make better use of wind, nuclear, thermal and solar technologies.
For decades, the enviro-nuts have stopped the construction of new oil refineries And they have used the, essentially, non-event incident at Three Mile Island as an excuse to prevent more nuclear power plants – a technology the Dutch and the even the French are using with great success. But we need to learn how to store spent fuel rods.
The developers of high-rise luxury hotels and condos on Florida’s coasts have stopped any off-shore oil platforms from “spoiling” their views. But here’s a solution: If those who can pay high gas prices for their luxury cars don’t want to look out to sea and see oil platforms, then we need zoning changes to limit the height of luxury hotels and condos.
Let’s say new construction is limited to 20 stories or about 240 feet. To find how far one can see to the true horizon from the top of a 240-foot structure, take the square root of 240 and multiply that by 1.17. You get 18.14 miles. Oops, we need to add the height of the typical oil-drilling platform of 250 feet. So, 240 plus 250 is 490, the square root of which is 22.1, times 1.17 equals 25.8 miles.
So now, we have a compromise: Buildings cannot be taller than 20 stories and oil rigs cannot be higher than 250 feet and must locate 25.8 or more miles off shore. The wealthy can have their un-spoiled views and the rest of us can have cheaper gasoline. Plus, fish love those platforms.
Off the coast of California, many of the oil platforms are camouflaged to look like small, tropical islands. Those “islands” sure don’t look like they have anything to do with oil.
Our Supply problem has more to do with environmental and esthetic politics than it does with fossil-fuel geology. So, if you don’t phone (or write) your Congressperson, don’t moan.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2005. William Hamilton.