Posted by Armin H. Ausejo
Make no mistake, I’m not a tree-hugging, vegan hipster that believes that all gasoline-powered vehicles should be wiped off the face of the planet. However, gas prices like the ones you see to the left are starting to get ridiculous, and it really doesn’t surprise me that a website called Gasoline Sucks has been created to show off the latest and most disturbing high gas prices. I even submitted one myself from Wedgwood in Seattle, and they posted it up. It looks like they’re just getting started, so I’m sure they’d appreciate any new submissions if you send in some photos. Nonetheless, we’ve become a bit used to high gas prices since the September 11th attacks, but how many of you have actually stepped back and wondered exactly WHY the prices have gotten so high?
The major reason why is because of an organization known as OPEC, or “The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.” OPEC sets the crude oil prices for the entire world, quite simply because the organization consists of all the countries that actually supply the majority of the world’s oil (and thus of course, gasoline). OPEC was founded in Baghdad, Iraq in September 1960 by Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. These founding countries were eventually joined by Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, Gabon, and Angola. Why is this important for we Americans who are complaining about our gas prices? Well, you’ll notice that the United States, nor our close allies are not on that list. Sure, we might have some decent supplies of crude oil here in the United States (almost all of which is a subject contention, thanks to the Deep Water Horizon explosion and efforts to preserve Alaska’s serene environment), but the United States still very much imports the vast majority of its crude oil.
While the majority of these imports actually do not come from the Middle East (we import most of our oil from Canada and Mexico, with Saudi Arabia being third on the list), it’s things that happen in the Middle East that affect the oil prices. Just as this article that was reposted on GasolineSucks.com points out, “The past 3 weeks saw retail gasoline prices go up by 38 cents to $3.52/gallon brought about by the continuing Middle East protests that caused higher crude oil prices.” Oh really? So let’s get this straight: we import the majority of our oil from Canada and Mexico, but because of the civil unrest in the Middle East (and Libya), our prices are going up? Why is this happening again? That’s because OPEC, which controls the majority of the world’s oil, sets the standard oil prices for the rest of the world. Thus, although Canada and Mexico aren’t members of OPEC, the oil companies in those countries (and ours) still raise their prices to maintain consistency.
I have little doubt that I’m not the only one who finds this situation ridiculous. We can all complain about it until we’re blue in the face, but there definitely sure seems to be an overall feeling that we’re letting these companies take our money, rather than actually doing something about it. Sure, there might have been small protests and boycotts like “No Gas Day,” but things such as these don’t attack the root of the problem: our country’s energy policy, or more accurately, lack-thereof. President Obama has made our nation’s energy one of his priorities during his State of the Union speech back in January, but there is definitely a lot of red tape and arguing that needs to be weeded through before anything really gets done.
Our dependence on foreign oil may sound like a polarizing issue on the political front, but if everyone just takes a step back and thinks about it for a second, I’m quite certain that they will agree on certain facts, no matter where their politics align. Rising gas costs affect everyone, whether they drive a 10-mpg BMW M5, at 60 MPG Toyota Prius, if they take a bicycle to work, or if they don’t even own a car. Businesses aren’t just going to eat the higher cost of fuel for transportation: they’re going to pass those costs down to the consumers. Paying nearly $3 per pound for regular, non-organic Roma Tomatoes at the grocery store is a perfect example of this. The fact that schools want to start cutting out vegetables from school lunches because the higher transportation costs have partially caused school lunches to go up in price is another example. Shipping your set of wheels from California just got more expensive because UPS has to cover their interstate fuel costs. It’s also going to cost you more than $50 to fill up your tank to take your car up to Canada for a car show. Let’s not forget that those that are less fortunate on the financial side of things are the people who get hit the worst by all of these rising costs. Clearly, the issue of foreign oil isn’t just about keeping our environment clean or making ourselves feel warm and fuzzy for doing the right thing; it’s about changing the way our country runs things so that we can all live better lives.
Now, you might ask yourself, “what can little old me do to help?” Boycotts are usually the first thing to come to mind, but you have to remember that in order for a boycott to be successful, you need the cooperation of MANY people for it to be effective, and when it comes to “boycotting gasoline” you’ll need the cooperation of some major corporations. That simply isn’t going to happen, especially given the amount of money that’s involved. The easiest thing to do is quite simply spreading the word about all of this. There is no substitute for the power of word-of-mouth: it’s the type of advertising that any marketing executive aims to achieve no matter how much money and time the invest into a marketing campaign. The more people understand and acknowledge these issues, and spread them among their circles of friends and family, the better. Hopefully, with enough word-of-mouth, this can eventually find its way to a politician who can actually do their part to try and enact change, or help organize groups of people to go out and make their voice heard on the footsteps of the Capitol. To go along with this, people should also be aware of the alternatives to using oil and/or gasoline, since having a solution to a problem is always going to be better than just complaining about a problem without any idea of how to fix it. Alternative fuels such as natural gas (which I talked about at length here), electricity, and hydrogen are important to learn about, even though each of these still come with their own respective caveats. Nevertheless, I’d like to think that I’m at least helping out by writing about this and hopefully inspiring our readers to educate themselves more about the issues at hand.
Bottom line: gasoline sucks, and we can only really complain if we are ready and willing to do something about it. But, if you’d rather not educate yourself about the issues and just sit there and complain without at least trying to contribute to the solution, then you really can’t complain. As Geo from the Blue Scholars said, “I speak cuz it’s free and these words are my weapons,” and “silence is defeat, my solution is to speak.”