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Friday, March 30, 2012

Symbolic Gestures (A Response to Erbo's 'Tradeoffs')

This article is a response to my friend Erbo's posting 'Tradeoffs' so please bear with me. While he is a good friend, Erbo and I don't always see 100% eye-to-eye. This is one of those times.

Erbo's article, summarily, is a critique of the "No Gas Buying" campaign calling for citizens not to buy gas on April 15th. While I yield the point that long-term this will have little effect on the overall volume of gas purchases, the act is a symbolic one, to an extent. While the oil industry is a 'macro' economic industry, oil company executives monitor gas purchases on the 'micro' economic level, hence why they can cite that most gas is purchased for automobiles happen either on the weekend (particularly on Saturday afternoons) or during the daily commute times of 6am-9am and 5pm-7pm.

A sudden drop, even for one day, is detectable at this level of monitoring and serves about the same purpose as a million citizens on the public lawns in Washington or a few thousand truckers on the streets of Washington for a day or two (this happened in the 1970s). Such a symbolic gesture can also play to public psychology, giving us a personal sense of 'striking back' so to speak by expressing our collective discontent with the fact that oil companies are enjoying record profits at a time that most of the U.S. is still reeling from the recession. Economists have cited this as a primary factor in the continued recession, specifically that, as was experience in the 1970s, we are experiencing the effects of 'stagflation' (a period that experiences significant inflation, but stagnant economic growth).

This issue is not a 'liberal' issue, nor is it a 'conservative' issue; it is an American issue. In the aftermath of the attacks on New York city, numerous gas station owners were fined or arrested for price gouging by raising gas prices to as high as $10 a gallon, profiteering during a time of national crisis. While they have been a little less obvious, the oil industry is taking undue advantage of our current crisis to line their own pockets. This is in addition to lobbying against the President's call to end the multi-billion dollar government subsidies the industry rakes in every year (these are not direct payments, but tax credits for things like 'exploration'). Other industries are also raising prices, in partial response to the increase fuel costs associated with product distribution and in part to jack-up their ailing sales levels (as if they are supposed to be somehow immune to the economic slowdown the entire nation has suffered the past few years).

As to the comments about buses and bicycles, my friend, I yield the point that these take longer to get where you are going. I disagree that this is a problem, however, when you consider the side effects. A bus carrying an extra twenty people means there are twenty fewer cars on the road that day, saving not only gas costs but parking costs and wear-and-tear on their personal automobile for that day, not to mention a few pounds less carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide being dumped into our collective community air. Bus commuters also have time to use their new iPods and iPads to catchup on news or get that last minute report due at 9am prepared before they get to the office. Those using bicycles, while taking significantly longer to get to work, enjoy the health benefits of an early morning and afternoon workout (something you and I could both use, my friend). Again, this has the effects cited above regarding the automobiles for that day.

I do agree with you about the LFTRs (liquid fluoride thorium reactors). After you brought the technology to my attention a few days past, I did some research and was quite amazed by the potential of the technology. I toss my hat in with yours in calling for further development and deployment of this technology and encourage our mutual readers to look into the technology as well. While I dislike the idea of continued mining (just as I dislike the need for continued exploration and drilling for oil), I concede it is a necessary evil, at least until we find even better ways of powering our society (if such are to be had).

Take heed fellow Americans that Erbo and I can agree on some points, but disagree on others, yet always retain our friendship. Erbo is a thinker and will always have my respect, even when I disagree with him on an issue.

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