Sunday, April 24, 2011

Oil and moral evasion 

A short flash video that shows you where the oil has come from, over time. It is a graphic reminder that we put money in the pocket of downright evil people -- dictators of the worse sort -- every time we buy a gallon of gasoline. This is one of the world's many complex moral choices that we elide rather than resolve. That evasion used to trouble me, until I decided that it is the only way that a thoughtful person can get through the day.


By Blogger sykes.1, at Sun Apr 24, 08:47:00 AM:

We import oil (about 2/3 or our consumption) because we get truly enormous value-added benefits from it, in all worth many times the cost. It is not just fuel (which we make and even export, not import), but plastics, fertilizer, pesticide, pharmaceuticals, etc.

Think what our lives would be like without those things. We would be living like 18th Century Amish. Today's Amish live parasitically on our larger, oil-based economy.

The people in the oil-exporting countries actually import all these things from us. They are fools not to make their own oil-based products, but their countries are too backwards and corrupt to sustain modern industry, or any kind of modernity for that matter.

We benefit from oil imports, and the oil-exporting countries suffer for it.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Sun Apr 24, 09:34:00 AM:

I’m not much troubled by who we’re buying our oil from – we actually source more from Mexico and Canada, if that matters. Picking who you trade with is a luxury, and has little place with basic commodities. There are exceptions to this of course – I worry about how Russia can threaten to make Germany freeze in the dark, for example. Last I looked Saudi Arabia was sort of an ally.

So I second the prior comment.

But if the dollar keeps losing purchasing power on world markets, we’re fucked. Oil is too big a driver of our economy. This is not unconnected to our current looming debt crisis. Double dip, here we come.

Obama & Co have only made this worse. In today’s Weekly Address, Obama says the answer is to sic AG Holder against market manipulators, and to keep making “investments” in clean energy. (Is there a battery manufacturer left in America that hasn’t had Air Force One fly in for a major announcement?).

Obama tells struggling Americans that if “you buy a new [hybrid] in the next few years, the better gas mileage is going to save you about $3,000 at the pump.” But basic payback math says that hybrids aren’t worth the additional investment unless you have $10 gas at the pump. Maybe that’s the plan …  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Apr 24, 10:06:00 AM:

While not completely convinced, it has been persuasively put to me that US 'dependence' on foreign oil is a masterful strategic coup. It goes something like this...

Premise 1: Significant reserves exist in backwards countries.
Premise 2: Significant reserves exist in the US.

Plan: 1. We refuse to dig our own wells, for contrived reasons, and ensure that there are very public fights about this so everyone believes it's not a deliberate strategic policy.

2. We go abroad and purchase oil there, doing our damndest to make sure that the backward countries in question don't rise above being rentier states.

2.5. This means that foreign reserves are being drained, and not ours. This also means that foreign powers can compete with us for those foreign reserves, but can't get to ours, driving up their energy costs and serving as an impediment to their development.

3.0. Drain foreign reserves. This reduces host rentier countries back into the bronze age from whence they came, starves other rivals for energy.

4.0. Finally tap our own (huge... check the numbers for shale oil sometime) reserves and bask in the bountiful energy.

The person who explained this to me seemed convinced that this was actual US government policy... that it was understood inside the halls of power (not necessarily Congress, most of whom have no understanding of strategy at all) and deliberately adhered to. I certainly hope they're right.

But in any case, things seem to be working out this way, so I don't stress the 'money for the evil dictators' moral quandary. They'll get theirs eventually. And if we didn't buy their stuff, someone else would, (China, Russia, Europe, etc.) and that someone else would be in a stronger position because of it.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Sun Apr 24, 11:12:00 AM:

Just want to point out we also import a lot of manufactured goods from a country that has no use for human rights and can hardly be described as a friendly nation.

It has to be remembered that much of the world is ruled by not-so-nice regimes. It has always been so.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Apr 24, 01:31:00 PM:

I think, feeblemind, you make my point -- that the morality of our economic decisions is complex, particularly in a world where most people are not free to make their own contracts and trade as they wish. However, I enjoy the fruits of our terms of trade (see the first comment) too much to give them up, whatever the morality. I believe that most Americans agree with me by dint of their actions, whether or not they are willing to admit it.

As to the question, are we better off buying foreign oil, I think it is more complex than most conservatives these days allow. Every time we import anything, including a barrel of oil, we send dollars abroad. Those dollars must come home eventually, either to purchase products we sell (if we can be competitive enough) or to buy American assets. Given the people to whom we ship dollars for oil in particular, I am not so comfortable with the inevitable return of those dollars. What will we have to trade to get them back?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Apr 24, 10:26:00 PM:

Saudi Arabia is an "ally" only in the insane halls of Capitol Hill. They are one of the largest funders of Islamic jihad in the world.

The same goes for Pakistan; of the billions of dollars in "foreign aid" we give them each year, a big chunk ends up being funneled to the many jihad groups in the region, including those in Afghanistan that are shooting at our own troops.

Lenin (or was it Stalin) was right, the capitalists will sell them (or in this case, give them for free) the rope they'll use to hang us with.  

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