Thursday, December 25, 2014

Spoiler alert: Don't think that cheap gas is a gift this holiday season.

Sorry to be a Scrooge during the holidays but don't think that cheap gas is an unmitigated gift. The media portrays low gas prices as a benefit to households and the economy (which it may be short-term), but we may be in for some volatile times.

Courtesy artur84,

What's wrong with cheap gas?

Undermines Renewables: Cheap oil and gas makes it harder for renewables to compete, slowing their development.

Boom and Bust: Low oil prices make it unprofitable to drill and communities are fighting back. (New York State just banned it.) So while some are rushing out to buy gas guzzling cars again, we could go from a glut to a shortage.

Geopolitical chaos: It's also destabilizing the world, sending OPEC countries including Russia reeling. Some believe OPEC is allowing oil to drop to bankrupt the US oil industry.  “OPEC’s determination to fight for market share remains a dominant bearish fundamental factor,” analyst Tim Evans at Citi Futures said. (Source)

Don't get me wrong; I'm concerned about climate change and we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. But this is a path to disruption. So it's even more urgent that we build a replacement infrastructure.

Dear Congress: Phase in a hefty green tax starting immediately

In 2008, right before the crash, Business Week suggested in an article called, The Real Question: Should Oil Be Cheap, the US impose a tax when oil dropped below $75 a barrel to create a floor in its price; the article recommended using that money to pay for developing renewables. Yes, that's Business Week recommending a new business tax.

Building on that idea, I think we need to add the equivalent of a $2 per gallon tax on all fossil fuels, phasing them in over perhaps 2 years. Use half the money to rebuild our failing highways/ bridges and electrical infrastructure. And the other half can fund renewables and efficiencies. If needed, a portion could be used to support the price of production while we still need it to maintain a steady but dwindling supply.

Of course, none of us think Congress could get this together unless the oil companies beg them for it. We need to act fast or we may be in for some turbulent times. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why has the "News" devolved to retail hucksters for holiday shopping?

When did the news turn into hucksters for holiday shopping? The local news is the worst, sharing the "best deals" and opening times for stores, Black Friday this, Cyber Monday that. But even NBC Nightly News was talking about cheap gas prices as if they were an unmitigated gift to society and then said the $1100 annual household savings would "go straight under the Christmas tree." No mention of setting aside some of that in savings. Buy, buy, BUY! Even the supposedly objective journalists have become snake oil salesmen for our consumer society.

Image Courtesy 
David Castillo Dominici
Is it corporate ownership? That's the easy answer, but if you look at who owns whom, you'll see that most like Walt Disney and Time Warner are only in the entertainment business. Maybe that does explain the emphasis on big screen TVs and in the case of Disney, toys. But they aren't hawking their own books, videos and magazines.

Is it that they think that's what we want in news? Maybe, but that's a self-fulfilling prophecy....give us drivel and that's what we expect.

Is it that they are just as blind to our materialistic culture, thinking that is what makes us happy? I would hope they are better read and more intellectually curious.

Mainstream media gets the airwaves for free in return for providing public benefit. What if they redirected their hype from retailers to charities? They could promote the idea of giving charities for Christmas. When my family had all they needed, I did this as Christmas gifts.

This even works for kids. My niece thought it was really cool that she became the adopted parent of a white leopard for a year and when she graduated from high school, I took her on a volunteer vacation. I found a charity for my soccer-fanatic godchild that brought soccer balls to bombed out areas in the world to give the traumatized children there something fun to do. And when I gave him a couple hundred dollars as a graduation present, he wrote that he wanted to donate half of it to charity. Wow.

So give a REAL gift this year, a gift of compassion, a lesson in values, an experience that will last a lifetime.