Like little kids in the check-out line, holding their breath ‘till they’re blue in the face so mom will buy them gum, Congress and the President are outraged, apoplectic, appalled, indignant, offended, shocked and scandalized by gas prices at the pump. A national disgrace, time to convene a committee, appoint a prosecutor, appear on the Today Show and 60 Minutes . . . anything, absolutely anything except take the blame.
The answer, of course, is to do what mom always did. Wait until breathing begins again, stuff their little quivering bodies in the back seat and drive home. Three things that one must never do; buy the damned gum, feed the animals at the zoo or take congressional outrage seriously.
Exxon just posted a record quarterly income. The Congress just posted a record quarterly deficit. Exxon just earned nearly $10 billion and the un-indicted co-conspirators who run our national government pissed $100 billion down the drain, both of them in the past 90 days. Guess which one has the Senators and Representatives ranting on every talk-show they can book?
You have to be older than fifty to have any recollection of the Great Oil Price Run-Up of 1973, when Jimmy Carter put on a sweater and lost a second term. Carter was too honest for the job, but America learns fast and we don’t elect honest presidents anymore. We are in the era of DreamWorks politicians these days and it’s much more entertaining to convene a congressional committee in front of a Washington gas station than it is to take the blame.
- Gave us SUVs, Hummers, pickup-trucks, the return of the muscle-car and a bankrupted automobile industry.
- Played off the Middle-East countries against one another, armed them to the teeth, supported the oppression of their underclass and looked the other way as crude eased its way from $2 to $70 per barrel.
- Failed in all the ways it is possible to fail, to encourage any form of transportation other than the individual automobile.
- Financially supported (and by tax policy encouraged) endless suburbanization that depended on the car for access.
- Worked to defeat or marginalize every possible form of alternative energy development.
And now, they’re on the floor, kicking, screaming and red-faced, insisting as Claude Rains did in Casablanca, insisting that we ‘round up the usual suspects.’
And no one laughs. This great American comedy is playing out across the country and not a chuckle in the house. Come on, Bostonians, where’s your sense of humor? You there in Chicago, birthplace of Saturday Night Live, have you no sense of irony? Out there in the West, where the oil-wells flow, is there no joy in last year’s $42 oil coming out of the ground at $70 and not a penny added to cost of pumping?
Exxon isn’t the problem, folks. Your DreamWorks government is the problem, Exxon is just unavoidably enriched by thirty years of idiotic Washington’s self-serving policies. We have contrived a war in the land of oil. We have smashed blindly at the hornet’s-nest of a cartel that no longer needs us and blame our local gas station for being stung.
It’s over. Crude will move fractionally from time to time, but inexorably upward, well above $100 a barrel and probably in excess of that over twenty years. The wealthy will drive, the rest of us will rent cars for special occasions or vacation trips. Wal-Mart will re-invent the peddler-wagon and come to you when you can no longer go to them in sufficient quantity.
We’ll finally get bullet-trains down the medians of the Interstate roads and we’ll do it whether or not the private automobile survives. We’ll do it because no commuter in their right mind will be willing to spend two to three hours of their daily life in jammed traffic.
But it would have been nice if we’d not been so gulled. It would have been intelligent and useful, pleasant and agreeable to have designed our suburbs with light rail, commercial centers and local schools. Our kids would like to be off the two-hour schoolbus as much as we would like to be off the two-hour commute.
We could have used alternative fuels, alternative transport, alternative housing, schools and planning in this concreted, asphalted nation we have devised. And there was time, plenty of time. Thirty years wasted. The Interstate highway network was built in ten.
Now the government that provided no alternatives, leaves us no alternatives and blames Exxon.