I’ve just gotten an e-mail that asks people not to buy gas tomorrow, September 1, as a protest against gas-price gouging because of the hurricane. I’ve decided I won’t buy gas tomorrow — an easy choice to make since I almost have a full tank, anyway, and not buying gas is easy when you’re almost fully loaded — but I get the sense that people don’t really get what’s going on.
So, a quick recap:
1. There’s a war going on in one of the world’s major oil producing regions. A war started perhaps on misrepresented intelligence, possibly for bogus reasons, but a war nonetheless.
2. China and India, thanks to the telecom and internet booms and busts in the nineties, are both developing internal-combustion economies that need fuel. The demands of two billion people in search of oil raises prices for us three hundred million Americans.
3. Environmental concerns and not-in-my-backyard attitudes have prevented the construction of new oil refineries in the US for several decades. Fewer refineries must now produce more gasoline.
4. Large numbers of SUVs and pickup trucks on the roads increase the size of gas tanks and the frequency at which those gas tanks must be filled.
5. Several oil companies have recently downgraded the size and abundance of their proven oil reserves, meaning that they have said, “sorry, but we don’t have quite as much oil in the ground that we can pump out as we thought we did.”
6. One of the major oil-producing regions of the US has just been shut down due to weather issues, and may remain shut down for several weeks. This deprives refineries of the raw materials necessary to make gasoline, which they must now buy and transport over greater distances.
7. At least two Gulf of Mexico oil rigs broke free of their moorings; one smashed into a bridge, the other got flung up onto the coastal highway in Mississippi. I’ve seen pictures. The cost of that equipment lost, at least, and more, will be passed on by oil companies to the refineries, and by the refineries to us, the consumers.
8. Saudi Arabia has had difficulties exceeding its daily and monthly pumping quotas for some time now; it is possible that the oil fields there are closing in on their maximum production thresholds.
9. The world appears to be approaching “Peak Production” overall: that is, the amount of oil pumped out, refined, and burned is greater than the amount of oil left in the ground. The remaining oil will need to be extracted using more expensive, more elaborate, more technically difficult, and more environmentally challenging methods.
10. Accidents at several major US refineries (which are overworked because no one wants a refinery built near them) have shut down other parts of the American system for producing gasoline and other petroleum byproducts.
Because of increasing demand and diminishing supplies of a non-renewable resource, which must be refined using a complex and environmentally unfriendly manufacturing process, prices for this resource and its byproducts will rise.
Thank you for your alleged attention.