Giving Nothing Back

A few minutes ago, on some cable show, I saw a viewer comment that said something like "I am tired of big oil taking in billions and billions of dollars and giving nothing back.  It is time for the era of big oil to end."

Wow -- I would sure suggest he trying going to a different gas station.  Every time I give the oil companies some money, they give me back a tank of gasoline.  This gasoline has great value to me, and is something I could never produce for myself (OK, actually, I bet I could, but you know what I mean).  In fact, the only organization that takes my money and gives me nothing back in return in the government.

  • delurking

    "In fact, the only organization that takes my money and gives me nothing back in return in the government."

    Oh, come on. You commit the same hyperbole as the person you criticized. Maybe if you limited it to the Social Security Administration you would have a point.

  • CRC

    delurking, perhaps you are right. Perhaps a more precise (but less eloquent) way of putting it would be to say that "the only organization that receives my money involuntarily and gives back what IT thinks I should get back is the government."

    I agree that to say we get nothing back from the government is inaccurate. It is more accurate to say that we might be getting what we want or in the quantity we want it. In short we don't have any choice. If I don't like Big Oil (tm)...I can choose to not spend my money with them (obviously I must find alternatives...but I have the option). If I don't like what the government is doing with my money, my choices and options are far, far more limited (or even non-existent.)

  • http://www.rbm.carriers.wordpress.com Stephanie

    Good one Warren!! I agree, the oil companies do give me something in return unlike the government. But working currently in the trucking business at RBM it is definitely a tough job staying on top of the fuel prices.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    Uh, irrelevant.

    The companies (i.e. CVX, XOM, BP, etc) who are “capitalizing” on the high price of oil are PUBLICLY TRADED COMPANIES YOU ABJECT, PUNKASS, SNOTNOSED, PINK-COMMIE LIBERAL HOSEMONKEY MORONS.

    GO BUY THE SODDING STOCK, COLLECT THE GODDAMN DIVIDENDS AND SHUT THE HELL UP.

    It’s really quite simple…

  • Bob Smith

    His comment about "Big Oil" appears to betray ignorance about who actually controls oil: national governments. Only ~6% of reserves are privately owned, the rest are owned by governments. It is they, not the oil companies, who set the price of crude oil. It is they, not oil companies, who decide if new fields can be exploited or if new refineries can be built.

  • linearthinker

    When I hear that kind of spray, I wish they'd collectively all go try and run their own alternative petro-energy operation, Congressionals included. They'd blow themselves to hell just getting a refinery organized.

    BTW, milk in CA is still way more expensive per gallon than gas. And, that's with no sales tax on the milk.

  • Keith

    Milk? Heck, the vending machine at work sells bottled water for $13/gallon. Haul Big Water up in front of congress! Seriously, whenever I hear morons on the left whining about the price of gas, I just keep thinking, "Keep voting for liberals, twits. Yeah, that's going to help." Let's see, how do we drop the price of gas... How about getting more of our own oil? Nope, can't drill in ANWR; can't drill off huge sections of the coasts; can't use oil shale. How about increasing our refining capacity? Nope, can't build any new refineries. How about decreasing taxes on oil companies and gasoline? Nope, can't decrease any taxes. Why are liberals complaining about high gas prices anyhow? I thought they all want us to be just like Europe, and now they are getting their wish in at least this one area.

  • rmark

    I'd bet oil companies give quite a lot back in taxes.

  • bbartlog

    who actually controls oil: national governments

    Yes. This is why oil company profits are actually not particularly high (in terms of margin). The vast majority of the profits end up going to various national entities like the governments of Iran, Mexico, Venezuela, Norway and so on.

  • Yoshidad1

    Government:

    "In fact, the only organization that takes my money and gives me nothing back in return in the government." But don't you drive on roads? Or do you vet your own food and medications? Or certify the doctors treating you? And do you print your own legal tender? Or enforce your own contracts? Or catch your own criminals? Or do your own mosquito abatement? etc., etc., etc.

    Trying to pretend that you are not the beneficiary of lots and lots of collective action, public works and public policies ignores far too much reality. Unless you're crazy -- then, our sympathies.

    And no, this is not defending government as perfect. I'm just not throwing the baby out with the bath water. People need intelligent, effective public policy, unless they want to revert to cave-dwelling.

    The principle is this: It's cheaper to have a community pool than to have everyone buy their own swimming pool. Many modern problems are simply too large to be addressed by individuals, and require concerted, group action. You know, "government," or "public policy."

    Pretending otherwise serves some very powerful interests who want to avoid regulation or "meddling" in their affairs. You know, like Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia, and those Savings & Loans... Remember? (But wait, they're private, aren't they not crooks like the government?)

    Oil:

    The comments above about oil are amazingly uninformed too. For example: "Nope, can't drill in ANWR; can't drill off huge sections of the coasts; can't use oil shale."

    First, a little context: Oil production generally, for a single well or a collection of wells, resembles the classic bell-shaped curve. There's some debate about when the peak of that curve for the world occurred or occurs, but there's absolutely no controversy whatsoever about when U.S. domestic production peaked (according to the American Petroleum Institute -- that's the oil lobby -- or Daniel Yergin, industry historian, and author of "The Prize").

    The U.S. oil production peak occurred in 1970-71. Then, the U.S. was importing 30% of domestic consumption, and the price was roughly $1.75 a barrel. Currently imports account for nearly 70% of domestic consumption and the price of oil is headed toward $150 a barrel.

    Not even the lease-holders of ANWR will tell you that drilling there -- or any of the environmentally sensitive offshore areas -- will return the U.S. to that 1971 peak. It will take 10 - 20 years to produce ANWR, and the Dept. of Energy estimates its production might lower gas prices by about 1¢ per gallon. In other words, it's a sparrow fart -- so insignificant in the larger picture, it's really not worth discussing (unless, of course, you own an ANWR lease).

    Of course ANWR was the centerpiece of Bush's attempt to address this problem in a recent speech. Darn those enviros! (And thanks for the campaign contribution, Exxon!)

    Calling for such domestic production to pull us out of the current disaster is beyond ignorant. See theoildrum.com or even (warning, very scary) dieoff.org for discussions of how far peak oil can go.

    As for oil shale...Yow! You have to be abysmally ignorant of the process of petroleum production to suggest this is a viable source of petroleum (and we have more oil shale than the Saudis have light, sweet crude...Dang!).

    More context: At current price levels, the relatively easier to produce Canadian oil sands are economic, but what they are producing is a sludge that experts will tell you was discarded from conventional refineries (I have family in the business). This sludge is so difficult to handle that there is literally only a single refinery in the world that can handle this Canadian sludge.

    That just shows how desperate for oil we are, too...

    Anyway, global warming concerns aside, oil shale is *much* more difficult and expensive to produce than oil sands, so it is not (yet) economic to mine. Environmentally, it is a nightmare too (as are the Canadian oil sands).

    So "liberals" aren't the obstacles to producing more oil domestically, no matter how much "conservatives" say it (I still don't know what they're conserving). It's economics. Saying this is just more propaganda serving the oligarchs.

    The key concept here is Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI). Scientists can probably synthesize hydrocarbons atom by atom, but it doesn't make economic sense because the energy required to do so would far exceed the energy produced.

    In fact that is the problem with Hydrogen -- it requires more energy to produce than it provides. It might be useful as a battery to store energy produced elsewhere, but even that is problematic.

    The other "alternative" fuels have similar problems -- the most optimistic EROEI for corn ethanol that I've seen says it produces 1.4 units of energy for each unit of energy required to produce it -- some estimate it takes more energy to produce than it produces itself.

    Wind, and perhaps solar cells make a little more sense (4:1 for wind). Nuclear might be credible if it didn't have the waste problem, *and* if it weren't so heavily subsidized. I've seen 4:1 for nuclear, but the Price-Anderson Act makes the U.S. government the insurer of last resort, otherwise zero nuclear plants could get construction financing -- quite a subsidy, if you ask me.

    And the question is not "Why is solar so expensive," it's "why is oil so cheap." One answer is that the U.S. subsidizes oil producers. The World Resource Institute (wri.org) estimated this subsidy at $300 billion annually -- and that was before Gulf War I. The subsidy includes things like tax breaks (the "depletion allowance" -- a write-off for oil producers), free infrastructure (gas taxes don't pay for all roads), and military protection for overseas oilfields and pipelines (estimated at $50 billion by WRI, but clearly more now).

    Another answer is that oil stores the energy from thousands of years of sunlight, while solar cells or wind can at most produce the energy from a few days, so the energy density is *much* lower.

    Oil's EROEI in East Texas is 100:1, in the deep gulf waters: 6:1 to 7:1. Replacing it with alternative fuels is not going to be easy. And, without adequate preparation, a sudden drop in oil's availability, as is predicted by the dieoff.org folks, would literally kill billions. (that is correct: "b")

    There is a precedent for such a precipitous drop in oil: Cuba stopped receiving Soviet oil in the early '90's (from 13,000 tons a year to 4, virtually overnight). The result there was a 34% drop in GNP from 1990-94 (comparable to the U.S. Great Depression 1930-34) and the average adult Cuban lost 20 lbs -- although the government continued to offer free education and healthcare. The kindly U.S. increased the severity of its sanctions against the Cubans. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VHt5QchfdQ for the rest of this story)

    The "adequate preparation" that might avert such a disaster means putting together the alternative to the current oil-dependent infrastructure. That would mean a return to organic, local farming (food on American tables travels an average of 1,000 miles).

    It would mean building cities of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhoods -- an alternative to sprawl's insistence that every single trip be in an auto.

    Ignoring such alternatives, particularly conservation (the best EROEI), is the real danger of the oil companies' domination of public policy apparatus (i.e. the Bush administration).

    Changing our oil addiction would also mean big changes. Ignorance like what is expressed in previous posts is *very* dangerous. It can literally kill us all.

    The colossal arrogance that believes individual human effort is the be-all and end-all of what it takes to get along on this planet is even more dangerous. We are all in this together. If you have a better way to make public policy than voting, or representative government, make your case. But don't tell me public policy gives you "nothing back in return." That is the very definition of hubris.

  • Bob Smith

    Nuclear doesn't have a "waste problem". The stuff with 100,000 year half-life? It's not dangerous. Indeed, the majority of so-called "waste" is less dangerous than a day spent at the beach. What kills people is the stuff with 50-year half-life, and nuclear plants produce very little of that.

  • Zach

    "The principle is this: It's cheaper to have a community pool than to have everyone buy their own swimming pool. Many modern problems are simply too large to be addressed by individuals, and require concerted, group action. You know, "government," or "public policy.""

    But if I don't want to use a swimming pool, I should not be compelled to pay for one for other people to use.

  • linearthinker

    Yoshidad1:

    "The colossal arrogance that believes individual human effort is the be-all and end-all of what it takes to get along on this planet is even more dangerous. We are all in this together."

    Less dangerous than the colossal stupidity that believes the collective can outproduce individual human effort operating free of government restrictions.

  • linearthinker

    Yoshidad1:

    Thank you for the seminar. You should refine your presentation before your orals. Committees can ask embarrassing questions. Some thoughtfully provided hints:

    --"It would mean building cities of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhoods -- an alternative to sprawl's insistence that every single trip be in an auto."

    Name one. Name just one such city that doesn't enjoy its liberal utopia by importing the stuff of life, human and material capital, from beyond its limousine liberal boundaries. This tripe has been around over fifty years.

    --"Ignoring such alternatives, particularly conservation (the best EROEI), is the real danger of the oil companies' domination of public policy apparatus (i.e. the Bush administration)."

    Arrrrrgh! Blame it on Bush. Had to come out sooner or later. "Conservation." Bullshit, only a marginal offset at best. Market forces will accomplish "conservation" without further intervention anyhow. Isn't the ultimate "conservation" something like living in a cave? Checked SUV prices lately?

    --Your seminar is long on gibberish, short on facts, and bereft of realistic alternatives.

    --Regarding Oil and your "context" arguments, do some more reading, and for goodness sake, avoid the outdated data cherry picked with citations from leftist alarmist sources. Apples and avocados belong in salads.

    LT

  • Mesa Econoguy

    Correct, linear. Most of Yoshi’s monologue was economic garbage (bet you 100 bucks he’s a liberal), but every time I hear this

    Changing our oil addiction would also mean big changes.

    I start looking for a machete, or bat, or other damaging instrument (haven’t gotten to gun yet – next week).

    There is no addiction to oil. Let me say this again for you economic novices (Yoshidad): we have no addiction to oil. We are not addicted to it any more than we were addicted to horses in the 18th and 19th centuries. “Addiction to oil” is a meaningless phrase – oil can easily be replaced, through economic dislocation and reorganization.

    As oil prices rise, more expensive alternatives become economically attractive and viable, and oil is displaced. Further, technological development will produce more and better substitutes and reduce our oil use.

    There is no addiction to oil. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of economics.

  • Solar Lad

    "As for oil shale...Yow! You have to be abysmally ignorant of the process of petroleum production to suggest this is a viable source of petroleum..."

    Nice try at a dismissive one-liner, to halt the devastating counter-argument, but in fact one has to be abysmally ignorant of the process of petroleum production from oil shale to suggest that it's NOT viable. In fact, it's likely to be the 21st century's LARGEST SOURCE of petroleum.

    Nothing like living in the past, eh Yoshi baby ?

  • linearthinker

    Yoshi:

    Bakken Formation, North Dakota

    Your family "in the business" can no doubt enlighten you.

    LT

  • Anonymous

    Come on Yoshi...Peak Oil is a pretty tired argument at this point...To say that there is such a thing as "Peak Oil" is to say that exploration and recovery techniques are static with respect to time...We all know that is not the case as methods today are many times more efficient than in the 1970s, and certainly light years beyond what was done in 1900...So, the concept of "Peak Oil" makes no sense unless tied to the technology of the time period being discussed. Peak Oil in 1971 only means the peak recoverable with 1971 exploration and recovery technology.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    The principle is this: It's cheaper to have a community pool than to have everyone buy their own swimming pool. Many modern problems are simply too large to be addressed by individuals, and require concerted, group action. You know, "government," or "public policy."
    Posted by: Yoshidad1 | May 23, 2008 10:56:03 AM

    Where have I heard that before….hmmmmmmmm………?

    http://books.google.com/books?id=yhOOvF61XKgC