25 August 2005
The following is an excerpt from a "Gas Boycott Chain Letter" which is currently
circulating on the Net via email.
"It has been calculated that if everyone in the united states did
not purchase a drop of gasoline for one day and all at the same
time, the oil companies would choke on their stockpiles.
"At the same time it would hit the entire industry with a net
loss of over 4.6 Billion dollars which affects the bottom lines
of the oil companies.
"Therefore september 1st has been formally declared "stick it up
their XXX [sic] " day and the people of this nation should not buy a
single drop of gasoline that day. . . ."
The villain here is NOT the oil companies.
While there's plenty of blame to go around (environmentalists
and politicians come to mind), you could, and indeed should,
start with the worst offender: the American public itself
which has prevented oil companies from building new refineries ("NIMBY").
Despite the dramatic increase in demand for crude oil products,
no major new oil refinery has been built in the United States
in approximately 29 years. That's right, I said almost 30
years. That puts our total refining capacity back to
Even if we were able to increase the supply of oil (though for
decades that too has been blocked or impeded by environmentalists
and their allies), we would still lack the refining capacity to
meet the current demand. During peak periods, US
refineries are already operating at approximately 95 percent of
capacity (demand was at 96.8 percent in July of 2004 according
to the American Petroleum Institute).
To repeat, even if significant new American oil supplies were
to come on line tomorrow, the American voters (through their
legislators) have prevented the petroleum industry from building
the refining capacity necessary to process it. Put
simply, more oil by itself would not increase the supply available
to the public to any meaningful degree.
Making matters worse for our refineries (and hence ourselves),
is the multitude of gasoline mixtures required by law to
satisfy a crazy quilt of different state mandates. By way
of example: During the summer, oil companies are
required to provide the Phoenix area with a different,
and more expensive, gas mixture from that used in the
northern part of our state. Needless to say,
though say it I will, complying with those regulations
increases refining and distribution costs.)
Adding to the price spiral is the fact that world demand for
oil has jumped dramatically over the last 29 years. The
newly emerging economies, especially those of India and
China -- representing about 2 billion people -- have substantially
increased the demand for crude.
I suspect that most of us still understand the relationship between
price, availability, and demand.
Did greedy American oil companies prevent themselves
from increasing refining capacity? Did they all get
together and decide NOT to develop new
oil supplies in Alaska, or off the American coast? Did
they convince our energy industry NOT to
build new nuclear plants which would have reduced the demand for
oil? (You can add our country's effective roadblocks to
new nuclear energy generation to the mix. Parenthetically,
China has announced plans to build 30 new nuclear reactors by
2020 -- see Wired Magazine, September 2004.)
If you want someone to blame, don't blame the oil companies. The
blame lies no further away than your neighbors, your environmentalists,
and your politicians. The oil companies are simply the beneficiaries
of the "head-in-the-sand" energy policies put into place over the last 30
years and more -- put into place with the consent of the governed.
Instead of scapegoating the oil companies, or even the oil producing
countries, look to your government's actions, to its restriction and
regulation of our energy market. Look for the refineries your
neighbors wouldn't let those greedy oil companies build. Look
for the oil fields your neighbors wouldn't let those greedy producers
develop. Look for the nuclear plants which your neighbors
prevented our greedy energy industry from constructing.
So the next time you get one of those emails urging you to "stick it
up their XXX" (with "their" being "the oil companies"), tell the writer
of that message that the XXX up which the stick belongs is his own.
And that's just the short version.
Lester S. Garrett
30 August 2005
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