Tag Archives: Oil Crisis

More than 8 years of blogging and my environmentalist roots

When I first started blogging, technically when I first started it was an email list that became an email newsletter, then a blog, I started because of two specific actions that were occurring in tes country, the widespread rollback of environmental protections, and the unilateral decisions being made in Washington by one party and one president whose first term would be up in about a year.

George W. Bush was president, he had just started what seemed like an unwise second war in the oil rich Middle East, environmental actions removing restrictions were regularly happening with the sign of his pen, and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Area Refuge (ANWAR) was continually popping up in emails from conservation groups.

So much of what we were doing seemed to be revolving around energy, oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.  The price of gas was approaching $2 a gallon, and instead of doing what previous generations did by investing in Universities and solving problems, many in the country seemed content to delay the problem for further generations by drilling now and using up the dwindling resources rather than daring to consider how to fix the problem.

Never mind that just two decades earlier foreign countries in the Middle East exercised the leverage they had on our economy by restricting oil sales.  An OPEC decision could literally thrust us into the beginning of a deep depression immediately.  Yet we continued to ignore and delay logical changes in how we live, and float in the breeze of an unstable Middle East that doesn’t really seem to like us very much.

I was frustrated and began blogging (or newslettering) about how important it was to replace Bush with Howard Dean, Wes Clark, John Edwards, John Kerry or whoever.  I was literally an ABB person – Anybody But Bush. And as we approached the 2004 election, blogging became mainstream and a logical place to write.  Sites popped up that made it easy to blog.  I used one site for about a 2 years, I don’t remember what it was, maybe Homestead, then Blogger for many years before the current incarnation in WordPress.  And what happened over those years is that I increasingly ignored the environmentalist base and core of what is important to me, my three boys and any grandchildren I might eventually have, in favor of partisan political blogging activism.

Today I am entrenched in partisan activity — in my blog, volunteering for the DFL, and in the candidates I support.  And where has that gotten me?

A friend from church recently said about the current state of politics:

“No respect, no creativity, nothing constructive, nothing positive. I just struggle to engage in a process that has become so divisive and so destructive.”

I used to think that that was exactly why we should be involved, to change that.  Now I am beginning to think that it won’t change and I have better things to do with my time.  I know one blogger who has already done that.

Anyway, I found some of those old blogs and thought maybe I need to return to my roots.  After all, I have been an environmentalist since I was a little kid.  When I was in elementary school, I was very interested in saving whales.  I think I was in 5th grade when a librarian at Fulton Elementary in Minneapolis, who knew of my interest in whales, gave me a pamphlet that had a picture of a cute baby harp seal on the front of it.  When I opened it up, it was graphic pictures of seal hunters with clubs, bloody baby seals, and pools of blood on the rocks.

What should we do about gas prices?

How do we solve the current problem of high gas prices?  Who solves the problem of high gas prices?  Are taxes a part of the problem?  Is the President to blame?

Several years ago, 1999 or 2000, when gas prices were topping $1.60 a gallon, then presidential candidate, Texas Governor George Bush said the president “must jawbone OPEC members into lowering prices.”

How’d that work out?

Admittedly, I criticized President Bush on that statement, and the resulting huge increase in gas prices ($4 per gallon) that curiously increased between elections, and dropped at election time.  So is the President to blame?  Was George Bush to blame?  Is Barack Obama to blame now?  George Bush deserved criticism for his statements and lack of knowledge about gas prices, if you recall, he didn’t even know the price of gas was almost $4 a gallon when a reporter asked him about it at one point during his presidency, but the president wasn’t and isn’t specifically to blame per se.

I’m sure I could find blame, and I guess if we had another president like Teddy Roosevelt who took on corporate crooks, the president could be a solution, but the problem is Wall Street investors buying oil futures as a short-term investment, not the president. 

Can you name one product that drives our economy as much as the cost of gas?  Not only do prices of products rise with the price of gas, but if I spend $40 more dollars on gas each month, with profits going to a foreign company, that is $40 less I am spending at local businesses that create jobs.  That means I’m not buying a pizza at Casa Nostra in Lakeville or taking my wife on a date to go see a movie at the Lakeville Movie Theater.  It means I’m not buying as much fresh locally grown produce at the grocery store, or splurging on a steak at Kowalski’s.  It means I wear my shoes longer and let me hair grow out a little more between cuts.  

Should a resource that dictates the economic success or failure of small businesses, and our country in general, as much as oil and gas do, really be an item that makes Wall Street investors rich?  When Wall Street traders think oil prices will increase, they bid more, increasing the price of oil.  So as we pay more and more, oil companies, many of them foreign, who have no significant additional costs to produce a barrel of oil, make more and more money.

I guess there are two solutions.  Drilling more won’t work, first it won’t stop speculation, and second we already have a glut of oil.  OPEC is slowing down drilling because they can’t sell it all.  So, we can work to either eliminate the use of oil and gas, or we can begin regulating investment in oil futures to some degree.  I don’t know whether either would work.  I doubt we would see a big decline in gas prices, after all, how often do we see gas prices go down 20 cents in a day like they go up?  It’s business, and it is not likely.  But regulation on oil speculation that limits gambling on oil would at least make our gas prices dependent on supply and demand rather than based on Wall Street profits.  Well, that is until radical governments take over the entire Middle East and cut us off completely…

Hillary, Barack and the Energy Issue

“I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use our natural resources, but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

It is very early right now, but I am excited about the competition between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the prospect that one of them will likely be the next President.

One thing that I am paying attention to is their stances on energy issues. While the war is the overriding hot issue right now, it can be stopped in a day. The impending energy crisis can’t. I believe both candidates will be very progressive when it comes to energy issues, but I am waiting to see what sort of energy issues they will campaign on.

Barack Obama’s website list some bills he has introduced to increase energy independence, but he doesn’t have the plans Dennis Kucinich has, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t even have an issues section on her website yet.

What I think we need to recognize is that when we talk about energy policy, we are talking about environmental issues and global warming issues too. Everything is intertwined, but the energy issue is number one.

Right now, expert scientists, energy advocates and pastors are speaking out about global warming on a daily basis. While I believe that needs to be done, we need to begin by talking about the energy policy issues and potential crisis the nation is facing. If energy policy is the key phrase, Republicans who refuse to accept the idea of global warming cannot reject the fact that we need to reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East. Wording is important.

When we begin concentrating on creating renewable, cleaner energy, we will create a better environment.

No Gas Price Trap

So many people seem relieved that gas prices are dropping, but we can’t fall back into the trap that happened in the 90s. We should not accept that right now, the U.S. is more dependent on oil from unstable Middle Eastern countries than we were on September 11, 2001.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, oil prices are dropping because the oil companies want people to forget about the high cost of gas by the time the elections roll around to keep their right-wing hacks in their back pocket, or that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other oil rich nations want Bush to keep his power, along with his addiction problem.

If we want a safer and more secure country, not just in terms of terrorism, but the equally important environmental aspects, it’s time to break our dependence on foreign oil. We can do that by electing progressive candidates at the state and local level who support:

  • Investment in production of renewable, cleaner-burning ethanol so that, instead of importing oil from the Middle East, Minnesota’s farmers will produce America’s fuel.
  • Speeding up the development of new fuel-efficient vehicles such as plug-in hybrids, not hydrogen based vehicles that are years behind hybrid in technology.
  • Requiring car companies to increasing a gas powered cars fuel efficiency. According to a July 18th Washington Post article, the EPA said the industry-wide fuel economy of 2006 model-year vehicles was 21 miles per gallon. If we can increase that average to 26 MPG, our nation can reduce our auto fuel usage by 20%. That means you have 20% more of your gas money to spend on whatever you want, and terrorist supporting oil rich countries have 20% less to spend on what they want.
  • Offering tax incentives for buying hybrids rather than hummers for small businesses.
  • Requiring all municipality, county, state and federal vehicle fleets, including buses, to reduce its overall fuel consumption by moving toward hybrids or alternative fuels like ethanol and bio-diesel. 

If we can elect a majority, common-sense and progressive government, I think this will happen by the end of the decade. The new candidates in Minnesota we need to elect are Amy Klobuchar in the senate, Mike Hatch for governor, Lori Swanson for attorney general, and Patty Wetterling, Tim Walz and Coleen Rowley to congress in seats currently held by Republicans. We need to support local Democrats like Paul Hardt in my district and your local Democratic candidate so we can take back the Minnesota House.

A lot of people are kicking themselves for their votes in 2004. Together we can make sure that doesn’t happen again. I know it is hard to talk to people about political issues, but we can’t go on much longer as a nation, or even a world, if we don’t take back this country from the right-wing elite who think their 1% is more important than us.

Oily Mark Kennedy

Americans are feeling pain at the pump.

According to a recent CBS News poll, 86 percent of people have been affected by higher gasoline prices “some” or “a lot.”

A recent Associated Press/Ipsos poll showed that 70 percent believe that higher gasoline prices will cause financial hardship for them or their family.

Yet while ordinary Americans suffer under the weight of high gasoline prices, the world’s largest energy conglomerates are enjoying record breaking profits.

According to The Washington Post, the 2004 profits for ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips broke records across all industries. In fact, last year, at over $25 billion, ExxonMobil booked the highest profit of any company in any year in history. These record profits have not only more than doubled CEO salaries, but they have driven up political contributions a staggering $450 million in the past six years. So, while consumers are paying at the pump, oil companies are getting billions in tax breaks and sweetheart deals from the Bush administration and their congressional allies.

Mark Kennedy is one of those allies. Kennedy voted against federal environmental standards that threatened big oil, while also taking $45,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, including $13,000 from Exxon Mobil.

Why are we as common-sense Minnesotans even considering him as a candidate good for our state and nation?