As a kid who was raised, reared, and sent through college on profits of the oil industry, Steanso is a little bit reluctant to hurl stones at our nation's energy industry. Nonetheless, I have to admit that it seems a little unfair that oil companies have posted record record profits this year while home heating oil costs have jumped by as much as 50 percent and gasoline prices by 20 percent or more. Senate hearings took place today in which lawmakers questioned oil industry execs about possible price gouging in the wake of Hurrican Katrina and proposed possible windfall-profits taxes which could be imposed upon oil companies who are experiencing exceptional profits and used to help defray the cost of oil to lower-income consumers who have difficulty meeting their energy costs.
Let's be honest. Economics was never Steanso's strong suit. Steanso took economics in college from a professor whose nickname was "Sleepy Joe" because of the effect that his monotone lectures had upon his students, and Steanso never really developed anything more than a rudimentary understanding of supply and demand by poring over his textbooks before final exams. Anyway, the oil industry, of course, maintains that their record breaking profits are a short term anomaly, and that if new taxes are imposed upon them, they'll be unable to compete effectively with foreign markets in the future.
I don't know where the truth lies, but it feels fishy. I mean, we are, after all, paying more than ever for oil as consumers, and although the oil industry claims that their refineries were damaged by Katrina and that rougher times may lie in the near future, it's hard not to feel a little cheated when we can barely afford to fill our gas tanks and oil execs are picking out new Lamorghinis for their morning commutes to the office.
During our usual lunch the other day out at JP3, my partner in prosecution, Regan, asked me if I had ever heard about Peak Oil theory. I admitted that I had not, and he told me a little bit about it. Kind of scary stuff. Peak oil is the theory that we are not going to run out of oil all at once, but that it will gradually become harder and harder to get at the oil reserves that we have remaining (as the easier to reach supplies are used up). As oil becomes harder to remove from the earth, it will take more and more energy just to reach our remaining oil reserves, and in the process of using ever-increasing energy in order to extract the remaining oil, our energy problems will be compounded.
The fact that our economy and our society is based upon an ever-increasing supply of oil means that once oil production peaks and begins to decline (while the demand for cheap energy surges ever forward), we could, theoretically, be in for some major societal shifts. Although alternative energy sources do exist, very few of them have shown themselves to produce as much energy as oil with such a small amount of energy expenditure required to extract the energy source in the first place.
Anyway, if you're interested in this sort of thing, you should Google "Peak Oil" and ceck it out. Ever-increasing demand for oil coupled with a shrinking supply could make for some real Road Warrior-type sh*t. It's almost on a par with Global Warming for disturbing trends with significant worldwide impact, but you don't hear all that much about it. Hey, if we're lucky, maybe the globe will heat up just enough so that we don't need heating oil, and the melting of the ice caps will provide us with gentle canals and miles of new coastline that we can sail around in our wind-powered boats.
And you thought Steanso couldn't be optimistic.