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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ready to wage war for a tank of juice?

An upstanding citizen "sticks it to the man" and gets some gas the old-fashioned way

The price of crude oil hit the $50 mark for the very first time yesterday, no doubt adding to the already outrageously incremental increase in the price of gasoline we've seen during the past few weeks. Average price in this neck of the woods is $1.80 but I guess we should be thankful: in some places around the country the average is already at $2.00 a gallon. Some speculate it could go as high as $3 or $4 if not worse.

As a result, I'm no longer driving as much: if I don't absolutely need to go out for it, I just don't go period. That's not a conservative or liberal choice: it simply makes good sense. It might be something to get used to if, as some legitimate sources are now saying, the point of "Peak Oil" (the midpoint between petroleum demand and supply, where supplies are calculated to diminish greatly per year as population and industries increase) has now been reached. If so, the ramifications are almost too scary to comprehend: the price of EVERYTHING - not just gasoline but raw materials like plastics, and substances like fertilizer and pharmeceuticals - is going to skyrocket. We might do well to all tighten our belts.

And yet, I don't want to incline my ear so much to the "doom and gloom" soothsayers just yet. There's a growing - albeit controversial - body of knowledge indicating that petroleum may not be the "non-renewable resource" that we've been told for so long that it is. That instead of being the product of organic decomposition over the course of millions of years, it might be the waste product of bacteria many miles below the surface of the Earth. If so, petroleum and its byproducts may be a replenishable resource. And in the past few years experiments with domestic waste products have proven that crude oil can be made from already available materials and technologies. All that's really needed to make it a viable alternative to traditional petroleum sources is an investment of time and money to further research, to bring it to the next level.

Unfortunately, I doubt that the big oil companies (and their friends in the government) are going to be so keen on making the jump to synthetic (and more cheaply available) alternatives. For the time being we are almost at their mercy, and I'm almost tempted to say that it's going to take some outright nasty things happening across the board to bring them to their senses and let people have a real choice as to their energy sources. Barring THAT happening... well, might be a good idea to start watching those "Mad Max" movies for the valuable information they carry on surviving in a post-oil apocalyptic wasteland...
You have to go back to another time. When the world was powered by the black fuel. And the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the roads it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice.