Oil - Back To The Future

Leland Teschler reminds us it's deja vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra. In this case our struggle with rising energy prices, or more specifically, rising oil and gas prices is not new. As he writes, it's Back To The Future Of The 1970's. It starts off with an old joke that's new again.

For our anniversary my wife wanted to go someplace expensive, so we went to a gas station.

There are a lot of things about the 1970's besides jokes that would have a familiar ring. For instance, take the well-known straits of the US automakers. It's nothing new.

During the Arab Oil Embargo after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, oil prices spiked and supplies became tight. Many gas stations ran out of gas, partly because of hoarding and partly because there wasn't enough gas to go around. Gas lines were long and an impromptu gas rationing system sprang up in many states to help alleviate the shortages and the gas lines. The price of regular gas back then was as high, if not higher, than it is now, taking into account 35 years of inflation.

A lot of the proposed solutions to the problems back then never came to fruition, either due to fear, shortsightedness, or plain stupidity on the part of our leaders and the interference of special interests. If we had taken action back then many of our energy problems wouldn't exist today. We wouldn't have to scramble in order to squeeze every bit of useful energy out of our existing supply. Our vehicles would be more fuel efficient, and many of them wouldn't be running on fossil fuels. Few, if any, of our powerplants would use oil, natural gas, or coal.

My question: Will we learn the lessons of the 1970's or will we make the same mistakes again and miss yet another opportunity to move past fossil fuels that presently power our civilization? If history is any indicator, the answer is probably not. Never mind the still unproven and ever more questioned theories of anthropogenic global warming. It's not the environment that will drive the change over to less carbon intensive means of generating power. It will be the economic forces that will do so. That is, of course, unless the cost of oil plummets and those forces slacken, weakening the incentives to do so.

Frankly, oil has much better uses than burning it to make electricity or to use as a fuel for our cars, trucks, boats, planes, etc. It's time to move away from the fossil fuel era, regardless of how much oil there is still out there waiting to be discovered.

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