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From a person named Armory Lovins, here is an idea Kevin is highlighting:

For cars, the most effective thing would be a "feebate": In the showroom, less-efficient models would have a corresponding fee, while the more-efficient ones would get a rebate paid for by the fees. That way when choosing what model you want you would pay attention to fuel savings over its whole life, not just the first year or two. It turns out that the automakers can actually make more money this way because they will want to get their cars from the fee zone into the rebate zone by putting in more technology. The technology has a higher profit margin than the rest of the vehicle.

Sounds good to me. But I'm thinking the big oil interests are beginning to fear peak oil and the end of their industry, and have raised prices in their own attempt to get us, the consumers, to decrease oil use. This turns out to increase oil industry profits, with the added benefit to them that it will make their product last a little longer.

To the extent the oil industry is able to successfully lobby Congress and the auto industry, though, the feebate idea won't be implemented, because cheaper-to-drive cars make the oil industry's product actually worth less to it. People won't need as much gas to get where they want to go if people start driving more fuel-efficient cars.

Unless you have a warrant to influence those wily and stubbornly self-centered energy interests, our current problems with gas prices may just be too tough to beat. Those people are just so damn selfish.

Of course, OPEC is as responsible for this as the oil companies are (our government has wrangled with both to try to obtain some relief for American consumers) and it benefits them just as much as it benefits the companies that sell gasoline to extend the life and profits of the industry.

UPDATE: Nuclear power is the answer-- for now.

We've got to go nuclear to keep us going after the oil runs out until we can develop and build a broad alternative energy infrastructure- stuff like windmills and solar power cells everywhere- to (in turn) keep us powered until we have some kind of an energy breakthrough.

This is all going to take place across a period of time that is on the scale of generations, but we've basically got to do it to avoid a Mad Max-like degradation of our civilization. We're already going to head far enough in that direction (that is, the direction of Mad Max anarchy) for anyone's tastes when the oil runs out in 50-70 years (and consumer products consequently become a lot more scarce because petroleum-based plastics are not easy to replace), even if we do build enough nuclear-power generators and electric-powered vehicles in time (that is, in time to avert mass starvation by, when the oil runs out, taking over the train and trucking operations that drag all our food all over the country in refrigerated and non-refrigerated cars).

UPDATE II: I don't really know that the previous estimates we've heard about the onset of peak oil-- 50-70 years from now-- aren't too optimistic, and that the oil companies and OPEC don't know something we all don't. But even if there is still going to be commercially available gasoline and jet-fuel up to 100 years from now, OPEC and the major gasoline producers may have adopted this higher-pricing policy because they are thinking of their grand-kids (or, in the case of OPEC, the future of their nations) and want their loved ones to live privileged lives like they did, rather than have them face the risk of some terrible fate, if oil profits end too quickly.

UPDATE III: What those greedy gasoline companies and greedy OPEC should do with their profits from $4-a-gallon gasoline and $135-a-barrel oil is invest it in constructing new nuclear reactors and developing rewable sources of energy, to help everybody's grand-kids, and the world. But instead, they're using it to cushion up their own piggy-banks. Someone should put pressure on them to become more magnanimous.

Originally posted to Swan on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:13 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think you give big oil too much credit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    im guessing they aint that smart.

    •  Hm what makes you guess that? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They seem to have attained control of the best racket going on.

      Think of Master Blaster in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Without the little old man turning on the juice, everyone was screwed. That's why everyone fought over him. If only that little old man could protect himself and keep himself from falling into anyone's hands (in America, the plutocrats can-- no one coerces them to do anything) he'd be able to write his own ticket, every single time.

      •  where to look for the smoking gun: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe

        Interlocking board of directors.

        The legal obligation of a board member of any corporation is to see to it that the corporation produces the greatest return on equity (profit) for the shareholder.

        If you sit on the board of two (or more) companies, you have to do this for both (all) of them.  

        So.  Look at the list of Directors of each of the auto makers, and look at the list of Directors for each of the oil companies.

        Any names in common?

        Those are people who have to serve both masters.

        How do they maximize profits to an auto maker while doing likewise for an oil company?  

        One way is to get people driving living-rooms-on-wheels that are expensive and profitable and guzzle gas.  

        Another way, when more efficient vehicles are in demand, is to increase efficiency slowly enough that people will keep buying next year's model to squeeze another one or two MPG out of their driving.

        Let's not forget that in the 90s, there was the 3-cylinder Chevy Geo Metro, that did as well as a hybrid: people commonly reported getting 50+ MPG in these.  I rented one and drove it from the Bay Area to Sacramento, and I took measurements and found I was getting SIXTY FIVE MILES PER GALLON.  At 70 MPH on the freeway (mostly flat) with the air conditioning on.  

        And going back to the 1950s, microcars were commonly getting 85 miles per gallon (BMW Isetta, Messerschmitt Kabinenroller, etc.).  

        We already have the technology, all we have to do is apply it and build the vehicles and sell them to the public.

        Anyway, if someone's on the Board of an auto maker and also on the Board of an oil company, at this point in time it's clear that what they have is an inherent conflict of interest.  Arrangements of that type should be flat-out illegal, something we can accomplish with President Obama and a Democratic Congress.

        Best of all there is exactly ZERO rationale for interlocking Boards.  The oil companies will of course squeal like stuck pigs because disconnecting them from the automakers will be disconnecting their snouts from some very convenient troughs, but tough for them.  

  •  It's not as if any (0+ / 0-)

    of these guys have much to think about all day long besides the oil supply, gasoline prices, and the effect of those on them, their future, and their wealth. That's basically the whole game of being a powerful oil broker.

    So it wouldn't take too long for them all to figure this stuff out.

  •  Big Oil doesn't set oil prices (0+ / 0-)

    To the extent anyone does, its OPEC.  There is no big mystery to why oil prices are rising, no dragon to slay.  India and China want more oil than we can pump and process.  

    •  Then why was congress meeting with them (0+ / 0-)

      to try to talk big oil producers/providers into moderating their prices?

      Sorry, pal, you're not fooling me. Please sell your lies somewhere else.

      •  Because you, Swan, will believe (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        no matter what they do control the prices and congress is full of politicians who need your vote to stay in office.

        •  Listen, (0+ / 0-)

          OPEC supplies some of the oil, so they control what they sell it to the gasoline producers for. But the gasoline producers are their own masters, and can put any mark-up on it they want after they get it from OPEC and sell it to the consumer.

          It's obvious the gasoline companies have a hand in this, and any Daily Kos reader is smart enough to figure that out.

    •  India and China subsidize their oil (0+ / 0-)

      to the consumers.  The price increase in those countries is not felt as it is around the world.  

    •  Yes and NO! (0+ / 0-)

      These steps could lower oil prices, but nobody'll take them

      Independent experts, however, said that government could take at least three other steps that could force oil and gasoline prices down immediately. Neither Bush nor McCain nor Obama endorse any of them.

      Perhaps the quickest action, the experts said, would be ordering curbs on financial speculation. Financial industry heavyweights have acknowledged in recent testimony before Congress that such speculation is driving oil prices higher.

      "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."T.J.

      by smkngman on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 12:58:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Anyway-- (0+ / 0-)

      Of course, OPEC is as responsible for this as the oil companies are (the price of oil has gone up by the barrel, and the price of gas has gone up at the pump, and our government has wrangled with both OPEN and the companies that sell gasoline to try to obtain some relief for American consumers) and it OPEC just as much as it benefits the companies that sell gasoline to extend the life and profits of the oil and gasoline industries.

  •  I love the feebate idea. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, G2geek, phatcat cane

    I've always been reluctant to see gas taxes as a solution to these problems because they disproportionately impact the poor and people living in rural areas. The feebate idea is wonderful because it attacks the problem at the point where consumers make the key decision determinative of their petroleum consumption, the purchase of a new vehicle. Moreover, it's not punitive on the basis of how much money people make or where people live, it's punitive of their choice to drive a gas guzzler, and to precisely the same degree it rewards good behavior.

    I'd also like to see some sort of buyback program for older cars with low resell value and poor mileage. This would free the poor from being trapped with low gas mileage cars that eat their earnings. Perhaps the buybacks could be made with credits only useable towards the purchase of a new fuel-efficient car.

  •  We now have a gasoline tax (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    andydoubtless, dditt

    designed to reduce consumption-- it just comes from (and pays to) the gasoline companies, rather than congress. It skips all the politics and red tape (and public benefit from the tax collected).

    All that's left is for congress to start providing free bicycles to the poor, and to start providing incentives to consumers to buy motorcycles and mopeds, which use less gasoline than cars.

  •  Peak Oil is a Fairy Tale (1+ / 2-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope
    Hidden by:
    eugene, phatcat cane

    Designed for the consumption of those with child-like credulity and a desire for simple explanations for complex problems. Weak dollar, greed, rampant speculation, Bush's War -- those things caused the current price of oil. Failure to acknowledge that hampers a solution.

    McCain's speaking style: Like a bad Andy Rooney impersonator, except not that good.

    by edg on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:41:40 AM PDT

    •  Wrong. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eugene, myboo

      Peak Oil is real.  It happened in the 70's and it's happening now.

      •  Ratings Abuse (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It is ratings abuse to hide rate a comment because you disagree with it. I am reporting you to the moderators.

        McCain's speaking style: Like a bad Andy Rooney impersonator, except not that good.

        by edg on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:51:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You can't trollrate merely for disagreeing about (0+ / 0-)

        peak oil.

        The truth of the matter is that I agree that the supply of easily accessible petroleum is running low while demand continues to accelerate (these are the factors people refer to as "peak oil"). However, I don't know if this is the complete explanation for what's happening in world commodities markets right now.

        All that said, if you try to hide someone's remarks critical of your position rather than arguing with them using reason, you betray either a weak arguing position or an inability to argue your position well.

    •  Peak oil is real (0+ / 0-)

      the price consequences of it that are commonly promoted by peak oil enthusiasts (for lack of a better term) are what happens when economists and geologists call each other names instead of working together.

    •  wrong. (5+ / 0-)

      So wrong you're embarrassing yourself as surely as if you'd pooped in your pants and it's coming out the bottoms of your pant-legs and making a trail across the floor that leads right back to where you're standing .

      Yeah, greed, speculation, and so on are also at work, as they will be in any market where demand exceeds supply.

      But if you want to argue against the consensus of geological science, go right ahead, be my guest, and please mop the floor with bleach when you're done.

    •  Speculation is what occurs (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      opinionated, Catte Nappe, melvin

      when supply can no longer keep up with demand.  It is a consequence of this failure, not an alternate explanation for it.

      •  Speculation is what occurs (0+ / 0-)

        when money that was chasing other financial instruments seeks a new resting place such as oil or other commodities. See: Tulips, Holland, 1636.

        McCain's speaking style: Like a bad Andy Rooney impersonator, except not that good.

        by edg on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 01:37:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  And your solution is . . .? n/t (0+ / 0-)
    •  Not a TR comment. (0+ / 0-)

      It's not trolling to have a different opinion as long as he doesn't raise Republican talking points. Do you have information that would back your contention that there is no peak oil?

      •  Peak Oil as the explanation ... (0+ / 0-)

        for current high prices does not withstand scrutiny. It is illogical to conclude that the world suddenly reached a period of peak demand and peak supply over the course of the past 3 years. Especially considering that the fall of the U.S. dollar accounts for as much as 40% of the price increase and Bush's war premium accounts for another 20%.

        I know that there is a finite limit to production at any given point in time. Whether we have reached that point today is highly questionable considering the many other economic and political factors that are currently impacting oil prices.

        Should we do nothing? Of course not. High oil prices are a fact of life for the forseeable future (through early 2009 at least, longer if McCain becomes president) and we must reduce or eliminate dependence on fossil fuels. This is only common sense for ecologic as well as economic reasons.

        Why phatcat cane troll-rated my comment is unclear, as the comment is clearly not a troll. Perhaps he/she is invested heavily in oil futures.

        McCain's speaking style: Like a bad Andy Rooney impersonator, except not that good.

        by edg on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 01:47:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Oil is a limited commodity (0+ / 0-)

      It takes millions of years for the world to produce it naturally.

      It has to be mined-- it is not man-made.

  •  The following may well be the real reason (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, myboo

    for currently spiked oil prices.  While we have been very busy paying attention to our primaries and the upcoming general election.  David Addington and Cheney have got their hands back on the levers of power.  Not only are they getting close to forcing action in Iran, they have also emptied the port at Norfolk which is an ominous sign.

  •  Amory Lovins has profound insights into cars (0+ / 0-)

    oil, and the promise of better times.  I heard him on NPR and then a couple of weeks later read about him in Newsweek.  He is on the cutting edge of technology and policy, and I think that some of his far fetched schemes are going to be gaining traction with the big three in the next year or so.

    This is our Senior Moment! McCain in '08.

    by dditt on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 11:48:54 AM PDT

    •  though he's wrong about one thing... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He came out against nuclear fission back in the day when there was enough lead time to leverage other solutions to the climate crisis.  

      At this point we've used up our lead time.  Nuclear power has to be back in the mix, alongside solar, wind, and ferocious conservation.  

      Here's me waiting for Lovins to say so publicly.  

  •  Upshot: (0+ / 0-)

    The gas prices are never going down. Not to lower than $4 a gallon, anyway.

    Get ready to learn to love to pedal!

  •  Uh, logic? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If big oil fears peak oil, that's because they believe it true... in which case they don't have to "raise prices to get us to decrease usage".

    The prices rose because more people want it than there are people selling it.

    Also, your feebate idea seems flawed. Why would auto manufacturers accept such a scheme? It's not in their perceived short term interests. (Likely, it's not even in their unperceived long term interests.)

  •  More efficient cars only delays the inevitable (0+ / 0-)

    The car is a massively inefficient method of transportation. They consume not just more energy than alternatives, but more material and land as well.

    Efficiency comes down to a ratio of energy to passengers or cargo. A Prius is more efficient than a Hummer, this is true, but the difference becomes insignificant when you compare the car to things like a bicycle or a train. Giant cargo ships are suprisingly efficient: they can carry both a volume and value of cargo far in excess of the fuel they consume.

    Peak Oil represents a terminal decline in the amount of oil that can be extracted from the ground and brought to market - oil production will decline irreversably to unprofitability no matter how much is invested into it. One day a Prius will cost as much to fuel as a Hummer does today, and it won't stop there either.

    The Collapse is coming; be prepared -

    by Visceral on Tue Jun 10, 2008 at 01:00:11 PM PDT

  •  Anyway, (0+ / 0-)

    Of course, OPEC is as responsible for this as the oil companies are (the price of oil has gone up by the barrel, and the price of gas has gone up at the pump, and our government has wrangled with both OPEN and the companies that sell gasoline to try to obtain some relief for American consumers) and it OPEC just as much as it benefits the companies that sell gasoline to extend the life and profits of the oil and gasoline industries.

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