Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


March 6, 2012

Will Oil Prices Be a Factor in the 2012 Election?

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Energy Independence,Political – Tom Harrison – 2:10 pm

Hmm, what was it again that happened in late 2008?

Once again, the price of oil may be a factor in the outcome of the 2012 US presidential and congressional elections.

Energy security. That’s what we are allowed to say we want. Today, oil prices are well over $100/bbl and are predicted to keep rising. Instability with Iran is the cause, right?

Perhaps, but it’s also possible that gasoline prices are rising because employment rates and other economic factors are improving. The decimation of our economy in 2008 was the best thing to happen to gasoline prices. It’s pretty clear that economic growth and demand for energy, and oil in particular are strongly correlated:

Hmm, what was it again that happened in late 2008?

But whatever the cause, the rise in gasoline prices certainly has the potential to reinvigorate the hollow cry of “Drill, baby, drill!” — it was stupid then, and it’s stupid now.

Perhaps the most stupid part of it is simply that the Obama administration has lived up to their promise — one very unpopular amongst environmentalists — of delivering on “all of the above” which included all new sources of energy. We’re moving towards pulling more oil out friendly territories than ever in the past. We’re still hooked on coal. And, perhaps above all, the stunning increase in domestic energy capacity from natural gas has begun to make a real difference.

I believe the above count as facts. Gasoline prices are higher and rising. We have moved aggressively to get more oil. We have not moved to surpress the potentially risky impacts of new methods of extracting natural gas. And even though we have made really significant improvements in overall car mileage averages, gasoline prices are still on the rise.

And these are some of the facts that, perversely, are providing fodder for the Republican platform. (I haven’t written here for a while — just to make sure no one is unclear: I am fiscally conservative, and thus a strong and vocal supporter of progressive agendas, if not always the full-on Democratic platform.)

Climate Change: Don’t Mention It

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I don’t know about you, but in the last few years, all of those predictions the climate change experts made seem to be coming true really quickly. Here in New England, last year we almost beat an all-time record for snow, and then we had a catastrophic hurricane, then a catastrophic early season snow storm, then … near record low snowfall and warm temperatures this winter.

Yet check this: no one gives a damn about climate change or global warming.

Google Trends shows that neither people nor news outlets are paying attention to climate change or global warming, dramatically dropping from our public awareness as the economic depression, er, recession took hold:

Google Trends: Searches and mentions of climate change and global warming

It's The Economy, Stupid

And so, the energy produced from renewable resources in the US has been essentially flat, and is predicted to stay that way:

US EIA Predictions of Renewable Energy

So Much for Renewable Energy

So, while Rome burns (figuratively and literally), we’re once again worrying about the price of gasoline. And yes, it will be a topic of conversation that, as in the 2008 election, diverts attention from the real problems.

2 Comments

  1. In hindsight, it didn’t matter at all, didn’t it?

    Comment by mad.madrasi — November 13, 2012 @ 2:33 am

  2. Probably not. But it could have. I wrote this in March 2012 when oil prices had risen as a result of nervousness about sanctions imposed on Iran. Prices were stable (falling slowly) through May, then plummeted to less than $80/bbl by July. Then they gradually crept back up to near $100/bbl by September, and the impact showed up in gas prices by October. The $4.00/gallon magic price point was raised in the “town hall” presidential debate.

    Then the price fell, today at $85/bbl, and so did gasoline prices.

    So yeah, it was a non-issue. I am betting we would have heard a great deal more about it had the change been in the other direction.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — November 13, 2012 @ 9:37 am

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