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Why It’s Smart to be Energy Independent

One of the big stories this week is the skyrocketing price of gasoline in California. At many pumps the price was over $5 and some places in Los Angeles stopped selling gas altogether.


The talking heads are pinning the blame on the usual suspects: greedy speculators who orchestrated a “short squeeze.” In fact, Henry Waxman, the ranking member of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, is asking the FTC for an investigation. However, the obvious answer is two of the state’s largest refiners had to shut down recently due to fire and power failure.

But this problem sheds light on a larger discussion. Why are we so dependent on a fragile supply chain that affects almost every aspect of our economy? If the price of gas is too high it causes a ripple effect all the way down the supply chain. If truckers have to pay more to ship food, then customers are going to see that increase in their grocery bill. If people can’t afford to drive their car, then you will see it in layoffs at car companies and slumping fortunes at vacation destinations. Basically, expensive energy makes life more difficult for everyone.

I think the country would be better served by having a robust energy policy with multiple layers of redundancy. I applaud efforts to develop sustainable energy, but we need to be realistic about what’s available to us right now. While the US is developing the next generation of energy sources, let’s make sure we are being intelligent about our current supply chain and making energy as inexpensive as possible.

What’s your take?

1 review for Why It’s Smart to be Energy Independent

  1. rgrein@mac.com


    Nice to see you are on board with energy independence – something Jimmy Carter tried to warn us about and lost reelection over. Over 30 years later are we only now getting the message?
    Our first, and easiest step is conservation. Use less gas. Do you really need a 4×4 pickup to drive to work? Consider a more efficient vehicle when it’s time to buy, take the bus if/when that’s an option.
    Then consider WHY we’ve been squeezed. The Enron piracy gave us some solid indicators. Collusion, an us/them mentality and lack of regulation allowed energy companies to, first drop excess capacity, then shut down sporadically for ‘maintenance’, coincidentally creating shortages that brought price spikes and huge profits. Same thing has happened in refining. Operating on a normal load of 98% capacity even routine maintenance causes shortages. With no additional capacity planned (thanks, private enterprise!) things will only get worse as current refineries age.
    There are solutions, but it would seem they cut into supply chain efficiencies. Business management has completely gone over to ‘just in time’ models, which while efficient in terms of dollars leave nothing for emergencies. The excess capacity that is available has been squeezed out through lack of competition (consider how many distributors there are in a field – gas, groceries, etc) and any emergency leaves people hungry, cold and no fuel to travel. Remember these nuggets of information when you vote!

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