And now on to... rising fuel prices?

Yeah, another subject worthy of critical thinking - don't you think?

I recently submitted what you would call an op-ed to a local newspaper, on the subject of rising prices at the pump. It has not been published yet, which is why I will not reproduce it here but it seems to have generated a bit of controversy among the editorial staff.

Reason for the controversy is the fact that I do indeed work for an oil company and even though I have nothing to do with fuels or fuels marketing, my article was apparently seen by some as "loaded".

Why loaded?

Maybe my big mistake was indicating that oil companies are not "greedy". That must be a capital sin in the world of these newspaper editors, who are always looking for "the angle" and "who to blame". (Everyone's to blame except for me - I guess).

But the truth is, oil companies are not greedy. At least, not in the traditional sense of the word. Let me explain.

Greed is a human emotion. If you have ever worked in a large corporation, you know that the full range of human emotions applied to the corporate "mind" is utterly meaningless. Yes, big companies (big oil, indeed) can be ruthless but it is not out of "greed" or "hate" or because there is an inherent "evil" within. It is just that they represent two main interests: one, the shareholders', who are always trying to get more for their investment and will flee at the first sign of trouble and two, the managers and corporate directors, who operate under the pressure of these shareholders and have what I think is a very myopic and shortsighted outlook, namely, the results for the year have to be good so that we can be well evaluated this year and we will hold the stock price high. Unfortunately, this thinking leads to decisions that are difficult to understand from a distance and may look "ruthless" and "greedy" to outsiders.

In any case, that is as far as "corporate emotions" go. As for the perceived "greed", well, there is none. Oil is expensive and will become more expensive simply because there is not much of it left and it will be exhausted at some time in the future. That is a fundamental fact of life and it means that we will have to pay more and more at the pump.

The times of cheap oil are past. Any new development is so outrageously expensive that most people cannot get their mind around the numbers involved. Big oil is investing as fast as it can just to keep up and they are getting behind.

The point I was trying to make in the article, which seems to be over the head of these editors, is that high oil prices may actually be good. And many people seem to agree with me. Yes, in the short term we all hurt. But if oil is inexpensive, why bother with hybrid and electric cars, biofuels, solar and wind energy? Everything else is so expensive at the moment that we all just go for the cheap option, our good old trusty petroleum derivative of choice. But make that old friend disappear and the s**t will hit the fan if we don't develop alternatives. Think about this in a post-petroleum world:

  • Flying to your favorite vacation spot - oh wait, the plane does burn kerosene, right? (That's Av-Jet for you perfectionists!)
  • Wearing the latest fashion Oakley sunglasses - hey, hold it. Doesn't plastic resin come from petroleum?
  • Let us have some good old fashioned Corn Flakes... oops, forgot that agricultural equipment runs on diesel fuel (petroleum based), the flakes themselves are cooked using heat from steam generated by an oil-fired boiler... where did oil go?
Our lives are inextricably intertwined with petroleum products and we are not aware of that. We need to start looking at the options NOW and high prices at the pump will prod us in the right direction.

Anyway, we will all be much more fit and healthy in the post-petroleum world. Walking or bicycling to work is going to do wonders for our figure.

No comments: