Tag Archives: current events

In Case You Missed It… Cheap Gas Saves World

‘In Case You Missed It…’ is a weekly current events post, offering commentary on some of our most pressing issues and some you might have missed. Casey Klekas is a senior at the UO and studies philosophy and history. He enjoys coffee when he’s not listening to Bob Dylan, but he refuses to combine the two.”

-Casey Klekas
In case you missed it, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in Eugene is lower than $3.50 a gallon. Costco is dealing it out for a quarter less. Why the hell is gas so cheap? I don’t remember it being this low since Dubbya was in office. Aren’t we crippling Iran with sanctions, the world’s third largest oil producer? You bet we are! So, what’s the deal?

Well, it turns out the United States is weaning off the foreign oil nipple and has developed its own lactating knockers to suck on. The International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook released a report in November 2012 where they predict the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020, and become a net oil exporter by 2030. But, as CNN columnist Frida Ghitis pointed out in an article titled “America, the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow,” the U.S. already exported more petroleum products like gasoline than it imported in 2011. After peaking in 2005, our reliance on foreign oil has decreased significantly. In fact, in 2011, we imported only 45 percent of the petroleum we consumed and more than half of that came from countries in the western hemisphere.

This is a good thing for many reasons. Chief among them, I believe, is having an approach toward the Middle East that is consistent with American rhetoric: it seems we’ve had enough of all the hidden fees and obligations that come with buying from foreign dealers. We can make it a general policy that we’ll no longer tolerate or support repressive regimes just because they’re selling us flammable fossilized zooplankton at a good price. Our lenses are cleaner for viewing the Middle East, and now we can just worry about whether or not Arab democracy is synonymous with political Islam.

Not only will it lessen our obligations to reactionary governments, but it could actually foster liberal democracy. There is a thing called the “resource curse,” where countries rich in natural resources rely heavily on this sector of their economy. This inherited wealth normally goes to a small group of people who’ve accumulated political power and can afford reactionary governments. But without the steady dough coming in from dealing out the oil, these nations won’t be able to sustain political repression and near-feudal inequality. Instead, they’ll be forced to invest in a middle class who can pay taxes. People will only pay taxes if they have a stake in their government, therefore we’ll see a burgeoning demand for political rights in the Middle East and Central Asia.

So, cheap American gasoline is good for us and it’s good for them. Surely, there must be some horrible catch.

Welp . . . Lower gas prices means less motivation for using renewable energy. The boom in hybrids, electrics, and the rest has been largely the result of the high gas prices of the last few years.  So perhaps we’ll see less of the Prius around town. (I was going to say “Priuses” but it didn’t look right. It turns out Toyota has officially declared the plural of Prius to be “Prii,” I’m guessing pronounced pree-eye, but you be the judge.)

But large reforms towards green energy have already been made and the public seems to have adopted the mindset of a moderate San Franciscan. The Obama Administration has already passed regulations requiring all new vehicles to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. And the drive toward low-emissions standards won’t be dulled simply because there’s cheap gas out there. According to the EPA, this also means less oil will be used overall, so we’ll be conserving what remains of our black, buried treasure while we switch to cleaner energy. This sounds debatable, but who’s going to question the EPA? You? That’s what I thought.

Gas is expected to get even cheaper in the next few years, and I just wanted to give a hurrah for a largely unnoticed move toward energy independence, something that was met with thunderous applause at every campaign rally over the past twelve years. It’s also nice to know that some Saudi prince will no longer rejoice every time I fill up my tank.