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Zer Netmouse
May 14th, 2008
01:02 pm

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Better than a gas tax holiday
Carl Levin makes a statement about what can be done to lower gas prices and improve the energy market in the U.S.

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From:tlatoani
Date:May 14th, 2008 05:27 pm (UTC)
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Finally someone with a brain speaks out. (Though, much as I despise Baby Bush, I don't blame him for all of the decline in the value of the Dollar.)
From:nicegeek
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)
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Bush gets a fair chunk of the blame, though; if you subtract out the cost of the unnecessary parts of the "war on terror", the budget might even be in surplus. Bush gets no pardon from me on that.

Levin's piece has some good points, particularly on research, although his contrasts with the Clinton years are political and mostly baseless. However, I think a couple of his ideas are likely to have unintended consequences:

First, the oil companies are multinational; if we put a windfall tax on their profits in the U.S. (even with the loopholes he's added), it's going to encourage them to move more of their business (and jobs) to countries with friendlier tax codes.

His ideas to tighten the financial regulations are likely to have similar side-effects if they go too far. One of the biggest reasons that so much financial activity moved to London was the U.S. regulatory-crackdown after Enron. Some of those rules changes were appropriate and necessary, but others imposed so much extra red tape that companies simply chose not to be traded in the U.S. With that said, price-fixing is a definite no-no in both U.S. and international law, and it's worth investigating potential collusion and fully prosecuting any companies doing so.

This is definitely a more thought-out response than the gas tax holiday, though. Obama stole points from Clinton and McCain by calling that out as the pandering that it is.
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From:chance_sparhawk
Date:May 14th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
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geez.. I knew things had gotten out of hand but those figures of where we are now compared to 7 years ago are staggering. Carl Levin makes good sense here and I'd like to see some of those solutions implemented. Nothing will change as long as dubba u is in office. Assuming the next president is open to these ideas, how long would it take realistically to see some results?

This will be the single most important presidential election in our nations history in my opinion. If McCain wins..we're fucked!
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From:knightlygoddess
Date:May 14th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
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It was very nice to read an article of such length and information in comparison to the soundbites that so many (too many) other senators and congressmen dole out to the public.

Something has to be done about gas prices. It stinks that my awesome student teaching position might be compromised because I cannot afford to pay $3.90/gal to drive out to Ypsi for 16 weeks. I quail to think what my actual teacher pays in gas, he and his wife have four children, and two cars. (He drives the beat-up econo model, she has the minivan for transporting their clan about.)

I think that Levin's proposals are sound and reasonable - I sincerely hope that people start listening to him.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 14th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
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If you need to crash here weeknights for 16 weeks to make the teaching position work, btw, that may be an option. I'm not ypsi but I'm at least 2/3 of the way. I understand that wouldn't work with your current carpooling plan, but I just thought I'd mention.
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From:knightlygoddess
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for the offer. Honestly, I'm thinking about it. If I were crashing with you I wonder if my teacher could just pick me up on the way (it's only a little out of the way, since, you're so close to 94, but I could probably pay him weekly for gas) - he's coming from Jackson.

:)
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From:netmouse
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
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alternatively, since you'd be within the AATA system, you could see if there's a bus route combo that would get you there.
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From:knightlygoddess
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
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Way ahead of you! I could get to about Carpenter Road - then I'd be stuck. The high school is way the heck out on Willis Road. (I didn't realize HOW far until I drove it myself!)
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From:grimfaire
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
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If it comes to it... you could always borrow my vehicle and I could bike/walk to work.
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From:dagibbs
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
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When energy (gas) prices were low, Americans were buying hug gas-guzzling environment-polluting monster SUVs, urban pickups, and the like.

Higher gas prices are a good signal, hopefully the market will respond with reduced usage and more efficiency. In fact, historically US gas prices have been among the lowest in the world (with the exception of a few oil producing nations which subsidise their gas prices to below cost).

This complaint feels like expectation of privilege... wah you took our unnaturally cheap gas away from us wah.
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From:dagibbs
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and not to speak about the urban sprawl, huge suburbs, and massive lawns and mansions that cheap gas has allowed.

And, then there's all the farmland lost to this urban sprawl.
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From:knightlygoddess
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
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I live out by the farmland. I have to commute more than 30 miles in any direction to get to a major town or a place of employment. We have always bought responsible and high-MPG vehicles so that we could save as much gas as possible without having to sacrifice the beautiful area where we live. We do not have a sprawling lawn, we have a regular lot, on a small lake in the country.

I feel that my bitching and whining is totally allowed. :P
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From:dagibbs
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
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You have CHOSEN to live 30 miles from anywhere. Having that choice, even if you try to mitigate it a bit by using an efficient vehicle, is a choice allowed by the cheapness of transportation (gas) that was available in the past. Being able to comfortably live 30 miles from anywhere is, very much, a rich-world western phenomenon.

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From:knightlygoddess
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I didn't choose it, my parents did. Because of the economy, we are unable to sell my mother's home, preventing us from moving closer to "somewhere".
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From:dagibbs
Date:May 14th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
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My apologies, your parents CHOSE to live somewhere unreasonable.
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From:elizilla
Date:May 14th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
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There are a a ton of reasons why the USA's style of urban planning is just plain bad. Leaving out the environmental costs, the biggest problem with it, is that it makes it impossible for those who can/should not drive, to live normal lives. Completely stranding the young, the elderly, the physically challenged, the mentally challenged, the substance abusers, the poor, and the chronically irresponsible, is not an appropriate urban plan. When you create this type of environment, people who know they should not drive, but who kinda sorta can, get behind the wheel, and people get hurt.

This structure didn't happen by accident. It was chosen, most of us adapted, those who didn't adapt are not visible in public life, and most people can't conceive of anything else. They imagine that this is just the automatic, accidental result of "freedom" as if no decisions were made and we all just fell into this pattern by accident. But there were decisions here. This is not a level playing field.

The higher gas prices are going to hurt us all. But if people can take a little wisdom from it, and make some different choices, perhaps we'll reach a new equilibrium where people can choose not to drive and still live normal lives, instead of being forced to drive when they really don't belong behind the wheel, just so they can live somewhere decent and put food on the table.
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From:dagibbs
Date:May 14th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
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Toronto has a functioning subway system. I have lots of friends that live in Toronto without owning a car.

I have friends who live in Ottawa without owning a car. They will rent a car when they need it, or use an urban car-sharing type program.

I have lots of friends that live in Montreal without owning a car.

Canada had approximately the same gas costs 50 years ago. We still have sprawl -- there are far too many people who commute to/from Toronto from the exurbs (scary that that word needs to exist), but different choices could have been made.

To a certain extent I think it may come down to a different balance of collective good (which is often long-term in its benefits) and individual benefit (which is far too often short-term in its benefits, but long-term in its bad effects).
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From:elizilla
Date:May 14th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC)
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The USA doesn't have a lot of places where you can live without a car, and the places it does have are so expensive that they're beyond the reach of many of the people who truly need to live without cars.
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From:dagibbs
Date:May 14th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
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A feeling of "entitlement" was the word I was looking for there at the end.
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From:chance_sparhawk
Date:May 14th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
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As Americans we are used to a higher quality of life then most other places. If that gives us a sense of entitlement then so be it. I'm not a fan of this economy and the whole "lets work twice as hard for half as much" crap. Its bad enough the job market is a floudering cesspool. We don't need gas prices so high that it interferes with our quality of life.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 14th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
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It's worth noting that nothing in Levin's bill (or any other bill that might be passed) is going to make a significant difference in the price of gas in the next several years. Even if we could eliminate all of the corruption, speculation, and inefficiency that goes into the oil price, it would be unlikely to change by more than 20% or so.

The root cause of the high prices is that there are a billion or so people in Asia who are starting to buy cars and use petroleum-derived products. Meanwhile, there's not a lot of oil left in the ground that can be retrieved cheaply, so the cost of getting at what's left is going up.

Whether we feel entitled to cheap gas is irrelevant; the laws of economics say that when supply is tight and demand is growing, prices will rise. In the long run, improved energy efficiency and alternative power generation can make a difference, but in the short run, we really don't have any choice but to accept the high prices and find ways to deal with them.
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From:mjwise
Date:May 14th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, more taxes will really lower prices and increase efficiency in the market. I'm doubly dubious of the idea that he can create a tax that will somehow spur oil production. Carl Levin should just propose nationalizing oil companies and get it over with.

The bottom line is, the short-term run-up in prices notwithstanding (where'd you think all the investor money fleeing the real estate crash was going to go? Commodities!), the cheap oil gravy train is just about finished and you're not going to be able to find enough evil American CEOs to excoriate in front of Congress to change that in any significant way.
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From:sllywhtboy
Date:May 15th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
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it seems oil speculation has gotten much more lucrative.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90041682
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From:myrddred1
Date:May 15th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)

A Different World

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"Given the turmoil in the credit markets, investors are turning to commodities and oil as a trading vehicle," Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Economy.com and an economic adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign explains. "It doesn't take a whole lot of money" flowing out of the bond or stock market and into oil or natural gas to drive up prices."

Mr. Zandi, like so many of McCain's advisers, live in a different world than the rest of us. Crude oil's margin not including the price of buying the initial contract is $9,788 dollars per contract. As many of us old codgers are aware, that is approximately the same as the average amount paid to most Social Security recipients per year. I'm not doom and glooming those of you younger people to such discouraging figures, but take someone who's still in school and working part time. It's not a stretch of the imagination to imagine that nine thousand dollars is your yearly income either.

Now pay a full 1/3 or more to your local filling station and God knows how much to sustain natural gas or propane tanks for home heating as well. I dreamed of speculating on crude oil or even unleaded gasoline commodities. As it is with corn contracts at $1,350 margins and soybeans at $4,725 margins, we can hardly afford alternative fuel prices (let alone feeding the hungry) either.

I suspect that until they can tax wind power and solar power, neither of those are going to get a push in research and development either.
From:nicegeek
Date:May 16th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
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There's a reasonably informative USAToday editorial on this topic.
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