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Keeping it Simple - Stupid

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I'm a simple man. And as such I have a lot of simple solutions to problems others seem intent on making so complicated they can't possibly work... and then don't work.

Right now there's three things Congress is fiddling over, each of which I figure could be solved on a single sheet of one of those legal yellow notepads:

- Offshore oil drilling
- America's reoccurring financial crisis'
- The so-called "war on terror."

Let's take them in that order.

Offshore Drilling

Republicans want to open more offshore tracts for drilling. Democrats want to move away from our dependence on oil and encourage development of clean, renewable energy sources.

If only Republicans (and their oil company supporters) get their way, the price of oil could fall again thereby making alternatives, like solar and wind, uncompetitive once again, thereby once again killing those babies in their cribs.

(NOTE: I don't buy GOP claims that opening more offshore areas to drilling could or would actually reduce the price of gas at the pump any time soon. But I also understand that Exxon and the Saudis can lower the price of gas anytime they figure it's serves their purposes. And under "purposes" read, "competition from alternative energy sources.")

But here's how both sides can get what they want. and the nation needs, while also insuring that ten years from now we are not having this same discussion again:

1) Lease the oil companies all the offshore tracts they can stomach -- excepting, of course, areas designated as sensitive marine sanctuaries.
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2) But, as part of this legislation Congress must set a firm price floor under oil that does not allow the price of gas at the pump to fall below $3.50 a gallon. If the price of oil goes up the price of gas can go up with it. But, if the price of oil goes down resulting in lower market prices for gasoline, gasoline at the pump cannot fall below $3.50 a gallon.

(WHY: Without such a price floor, oil producing countries and big oil companies will, as they have so many times before, temporarily flood the market with cheap oil, thereby smoothering still-fragile clean, renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar. They've done it before, and they'll do it again, unless a floor is set for oil that keeps gasoline at levels that encourage both conservation and forces changes in consumer preferences for transportation.)

3) If, at some point, oil and gas prices fall due to increased production -- as Republicans claim they would -- the price of gasoline would still not fall below below $3.50. For example, say oil prices decline enough to force the price of gasoline at the pump down to $2.99 a gallon. In that case consumers would continue paying $3.50 gallon at the pump. But the difference, 51 cents/gallon, wouldn't go to oil companies but rather into a new Federal Alternative Energy Fund. That money would  be used to for clean/renewable R&D and to temporarily subsidize emerging energy alternatives such as solar and wind.

Republicans will diss this price floor as a "tax on consumers," and Democrats will scream bloody murder about offshore drilling. Both of them need to put a sock in it and realize that there really is no free lunch. First , consumers are already paying that tax, but they are paying it to Exxon, and not getting a thing back in return for it. At least with the Federal Alternative Energy Fund consumers will get some news, clean energy to run their consumer products on down the road.

And as for the additional oil that can be recovered offshore, well, however all this plays out over time, we will conitnue to need oil for the foreseeable future. Some folks don't seem to realize that oil doesn't just fuel cars, it goes into all kinds things, including fertilizers for growing food. We can eventually cut our need for the stuff down to a trickle, but we'll always need that trickle. So developing offshore sources will pay dividends a decade or two downt the road. And by then we won't have to buy the stuff from the Saudis. America can stop sending $700 billion a year to countries run by people who like to fly commercial airliners into our skyscrapers and treat their women like livestock.

Bubbles and Financial Meltdowns

No, you're not imagining things. We really do seem to have a full-scale financial meltdown about every 8- to 10-years. And every time one of these financial bubbles burst you hear the same noises out of Washington;
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"Where were the regulators?" And, "Where were the accountants?"

Well I know where the were -- and still are.

Federal regulators have been knee-capped by Congress and whoever was (is) in the White House at the time, at the "request" of their well-helled financial services contributors.  Those contributors don't like to have to show their books to humorless, picky, green-eye-shaded federal regulators.

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a (more...)

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