It is a commonly spread notion that we need to get away from fossil fuels and become more self sufficient on energy sources ( what ever they may be as long as they don’t consist of crude oil ). Why? Well there is the emission issue, the reliance on the production from other countries especially in the Middle East, and the presupposition is that if we do wean ourselves from using as much crude oil and substitute its use with something like wind or electricity or nuclear energy then the world will be cleaner , the Middle East will not have a market in America and all will be better.
This theory ignores a few things and these need to be examined and weighed before we go head long into an abyss of irrelevance. First of all there is a reason oil is now a preferred fuel. If it were too expensive or unobtainable it would have phased itself out of existence and we would be considering the revitalization of the whale oil industry or trying to discover additives that would make some liquid fill the uses that crude oil now fills. Don’t forget crude oil is used for a lot more than just gasoline. To get it out of the picture means we will have to substitute another source for asphalt, perfumes, heating oil, and many other products , not just gasoline. The politicians who have no business sense whatsoever ignore this aspect of the value of crude oil and blindly ponder polls of the uninformed to come up with schemes that can be generically proclaimed as all inclusive solutions under the moniker of “energy policy”.
Consider the person running an asphalt production company. He may find or invent a better product that doesn’t use asphalt from crude oil. But don’t you think it would have to be profitable for him to change his capital expenditures , his suppliers, seek customers that would readily change to his new product, conduct extensive marketing with huge marketing costs, undergo regulatory scrutiny and in sum take on a risk that could result in failure? The businessman has to ask, “ What’s in it for me?” and “Why should I change?” If he doesn’t, he is attaching himself to the “band wagon” of public opinion , political preference and media bias. Sure he can adopt a policy of only windmills to run his factories but if the wind don’t blow his production will suffer , his customers will leave due to a lack of goods, and his competitors who didn’t take this risk, will profit and out compete him. This applies to more than just domestic competitors.
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There is a saying that there is no such thing as a sure thing. In business this is a guideline that teaches the businessman to err on the side of caution. It is the equivalent of not throwing out the baby with the bath water. If you have a business that is profitable you have to be careful you don’t move in a direction that exceeds your capabilities or reach. No matter how popular the notion is or how “convinced” the politicians are or how biased the media is, your bottom line is your bottom line and jumping on a redistribution fund in the form of a government grant or tax credit, giving into the regulatory pressure of mandatory compliance will not be beneficial in the long run if you anticipate a negative impact on your bottom line. This is called “ Stick to the knitting”.
There is a personal example I can give you that shows how this worked when I was a new employee at General Mills back in the seventies.. General Mills was doing fine in the cereal business but it was decided the company needed to expand into a wide variety of other business. They got into clothing, wallpaper, and various other non-food related ventures and soon learned that their MO did not fit the requirements of something like the fashion industry. They intelligently recognized they needed to protect their bottom line by eliminating those businesses they did less well in and concentrate of what they did very well. A business contemplating revamping their energy sources due to wanting to improve their public image may well fall victim to this adventure into image building instead of profit making.
The role of government trying to hurry up what it perceives is the best way to build a better world is usually counter productive. The regulations on American automakers is a good example. Requiring fuel standards that may be too expensive to compete with foreign vehicles is one downside. Requiring multiple fuel mixes costs the consumer more which means they have less to buy other goods and services. And these attempts at forcing business to conform to political wishes cannot be considered to be for the betterment of mankind. Wasting the hard earned profits of business by redistribution, administration and the added burden of picking at the opposition party can hardly be called an improvement. Sadly it does even less for the efficiency of government invented to protect individual rights now deteriorating into regulation and taxation leading to eventual national bankruptcy. You know of course that if you ran a business with the debt of our government, this same government would declare you to be bankrupt and as it does in the banking industry take over your operation. They cannot do this to themselves even though they are violating their own standards. This is why limitation of government is necessary to avoid excessive limitations by government.
As long as oil is the most versatile commodity for energy et.al. and nothing has emerged to replace it it is a resource we should use. We should find ways to find more of it. We should sacrifice a few lichens and caribou for the heating of human homes and the travel of human passengers and freight haulers. We should recognize that the notions of the dreamers of energy sources on the horizon may or may not materialize ,and economics ,not sympathy for quadrupeds should be the guiding principle. If we do get rid of oil as a source of energy there will only be some nut decrying the presence of oil underground that used to be removed and now has some esoteric toad unable to reproduce due to pustules from underground oil contact.
Most sane people enjoy their life with conveniences that oil energy makes possible. But there are the knit pickers that must find fault, spread doom and gloom all with the desire to inflict regulation and squelch human desire to live on this earth and seek happiness. Whether it is a politician who wants to redistribute your earnings, a preacher who claims your life is nothing but an opportunity to be miserable and full of guilt because you don’t have the capacity to forgive atrocities or a spiteful relative that thinks you as a family member owe them something.
None of these are ever satisfied to reflect on progress they have experienced and never contributed to. They take it as a given just as they drive cross country to decry the use of oil as they burn gasoline by the barrel to move from protest to protest. These are the hypocrites who cry there ought to be a better way and somebody besides them should provide it. They don’t want oil but they want transportation that they can afford and energy used that simply turns into nothing. Much like their theories.
Before we curse too vehemently the sins of oil we need to recognize its virtues. It is cheap ( cheaper than most other sources ), it is abundant ( if we don’t close up the oil fields for caribou playgrounds ), it is versatile ( if we don’t restrict its use to kerosene lanterns ) and it is established (which took a lot of investment , technology and time ). Think for a moment what we would have without oil and when you see empty parking lots at the mall, no semi’s on the road bringing new goods and services, an empty driveway, a cold house, no newspaper ( not all bad ), a row boat to ski behind, a dirt road, no perfume, and in essence a hovel with a stone hoe, perhaps you will realize what it is these oil haters are seeking. I prefer the vision of John D. Rockefeller to the wispy hallucinations of the earth” guardians” who equate humanity with slugs. If they were only true to their professed beliefs we would not have them using gasoline, heating oil, maintaining a palace on Capital Hill and flying all over the country promoting the elimination of the very energy source they are relying on. Like the country singer who drives up in a luxury car to sing about his old broken down pick-up, the political hypocrites today begging for sacrifices have only their ambition to rule to offer.
Let them sacrifice their aristocratic notions of pomposity and start decontrolling the maze of regulations that no one could consistently adhere to. Let them show by example how to live without the benefits of oil. Let them show us how they appreciate a simpler life living without automobiles , airplanes and power boats. Let them remove the clinkers from a coal furnace, smell the smoke of a steam engine and chop wood for a pot bellied stove. Let them till a garden with a spade, watch farms grow up in weeds and walk to one room school houses. These are the conditions that fermented a wish for better things and a better source of energy. This was achieved and now the dummies of today decry what made this earlier wish come true. It is one thing to invent and provide and another to denounce and forget. Oil has reaped the wrath of the ungrateful.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.