"supplies are tight, with no relief in sight."
"EIA reports that US refinery inputs are 115,000-barrels-a-day short of their 15-million-barrel-a-day "threshold" (i.e, their required capacity to keep things humming)."
I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends I went to California with when we were comparing American and Canadian economic output. We marvelled at how Americans get infrastructure projects completed so much faster than Canadians which morphed into a conversation on the differences in productivity between the two nations. He said accurately that things get done in America because they don't waste time and energy on 'meetings', 'reviews', 'committees' and 'regulatory bodies'. However, I said that economic productivity isn't the only barometer from what we should be considering the 'health' of a nation. The economists would have you believe that, but it isn't true. I posed the question, 'Well, the economists have us believe that being behind the Americans in productivity is a bad, unacceptable thing, but what if Canadians are simply more satisfied with what they have and not so mired in the consumerist delusion that 'more and more is always better? Maybe Canadians are less productive because they don't give as much of a shit about material things, and value family, free time, personal growth, a basic, universal amount of health coverage to all, and non-work pursuits more highly than Americans?'.
I still couldn't convince him that being less materialistic and consuming could possibly be a good thing, or at least a more reasonable approach to the issues we face today.
And yes, sure Canadians accept/put up with meetings and committees and regulation more than Americans (maybe to a fault), but I think the rules and procedures that have come out of all of these discussions are much more thoughtful and progressive and community-based and consequently distinctly Canadian than something based on a complete concern of individual pursuit at the expense of any other possible arrangement. At some point the rights of the individual have to be compromised for the common good, especially in this day and age when there are so damn many of us around (I propose this, but that's another story for another day).
Canadians appear to be a balance of the European and American models, and I believe we should start emulating the European models even more. The only way we're going to get through some of the storms ahead is through thoughful collaborative universal efforts, which I think might only be implementable through government regulation OR economic sanction (whether that be through government/corporate influence or simply through the reactions to free market changes). Some individual freedoms might have to be compromised to achieve this, I'm afraid. I'm sure that statement will anger some libertarian friends out there, but it's true. There are too many individuals with the power to make bad decisions that affect too many others.
The Canadian federal government has also tabled 'Robin Hood' taxes on vehicles in the last federal budget as proposed in California below. I think Canadians see them as progressive, but Americans would most likely see them as being treasonous. I believe it is paramount that we move to a user-pay model for everything and drop industry subsidies as soon as possible, so the true cost of the infrastructure and products we utilize on a daily basis are borne on those that use them the most. Seems simple, doesn't it?
From Clusterfuck Nation:
JHK mentions an interesting point about gasoline prices being one of the few numbers to pass through the consciousness, however briefly, of Americans lost in the dark raptures of compulsive shopping and immediate gratification.
At what point do we feel the sting of higher fuel prices and make changes to that we use less of the stuff, somehow?
Almost every year I take a road trip out west, usually trying to hit the times when gasoline will be most expensive. Why? The roads are generally safer then. The few remaining SUVs have slowed down from Nascar speeds to something closer to the posted speed limit. Generally there seem to be fewer large cars being driven carelessly on the interstates when it gets much above $3/gallon here.
Of course, if you stand by routes 128, or 3, or 9 going into Boston, you won't see much difference in car counts. A few more people may carpool here and there, but it's still a big ugly mess of traffic, with lots of people driving singly in large SUVs as Kickaha mentions above. Most of those people are against the wall in terms of making choices that would lessen their dependence on personally-purchased fossil fuels. Public transportation here is pretty useless. Possibly the easiest thing to do would be to start encouraging carpooling in some meaningful way. Thus far our government has proved to be inept at making changes such as this. Some cities will go as far as to have HOV lanes in the busier parts of traffic, but there has been no effort yet to penalize those who use fuel wastefully.
I think it's going to take more than $4/gallon to get people to start making changes. Prices like this are already being paid on the left coast and in Hawaii, but apparently all the Hummers and Escalades and Suburbans and Excursions are still on the road and being used for the most banal local errands.
California is currently debating doing something a little more proactive:“Call it the Robin Hood approach to global warming.
by Paul Rogers, Mercury News
"California drivers who buy new Hummers, Ford Expeditions and other big vehicles that emit high levels of greenhouse gases would pay a fee of up to $2,500.
"And drivers who buy more fuel-efficient cars - like the Toyota Prius or Ford Focus - would receive rebates of up to $2,500, straight from the gas-guzzlers' pockets.
"That's the provocative proposal from a Silicon Valley legislator whose "Clean Car Discount" bill is gaining momentum, sending car dealers into a tizzy and sparking passions among motorists."
Measures like this are already in place, AFAIK, in other parts of the world, where cooler heads generally recognize that simply letting everyone do whatever the F they want (no matter how obnoxious or polluting or dangerous to everyone else it might be) is not such a good idea if you're interested in having a stable society. It's only within the narrow confines of a culture obsessed with me-firstism and “Goddamnit, I have the right to drive as big a truck as I want”-ism that we could weigh personal freedumbs such as these against the costs of traffic congestion, fuel depletion, the larger costs of suburban and exurban sprawl, the many hours lost sitting in traffic by millions of people every day, the pollution from so many personal vehicles driving so far and idling so much every day, the healthcare costs of the problems caused by this type of living arrangement, etc.
If we, as people of the United Parking Lot, want to pull out our heads for long enough to solve the problems of the energy crisis and the need to power down, then we're going to have to ask ourselves if we wish to continue with this train-wreck experiment in personal freedumbs gone awry, or if we're willing to switch to a more civilized way of coexisting. We're either all in this together or things will get nasty.
There are so many parties out there that would oppose an infringement of individual rights and freedoms, and I will defend democracy in this way as well, but I also see that the powers that be are also setting up the gameboard for the New World Order where this won't be allowable or at least will only be able to exist in a greatly reduced, modified form. I think we need to move away from such an extreme defense of individualism and consider that the essence of the bigger picture and the common good might be more imperative at this point in history, especially if we are entering a powerdown period of transition to different energy systems. Regulation is necessary to reign in the mavericks of the herd that are inflicting a lot more damage or consuming a lot more resources than is allowable for one individual to do, but then again, who sets what this limit is? Who has the right to make these judgments in a democratic society?
Maybe if we start down this path now gradually, we can avoid falling into some form of governance in the future that would be much less palatable when shit starts hitting the fan.