Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Capitalism gone bad

Now don't let the title fool you. I'm as free-market as the next guy. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of supply and demand on company destinies. The problem is when the entirety of the nation caters to one industry to a point that makes us unable to live without it. That's not free-market. That's a trust.

The industry I'm speaking of, is, of course, oil. We use oil for darn near everything in our lives today, and trying to get away from it is one of the most difficult things to do, ever.

The Associated Press had an article today about gas prices. Here's a little bit:

Don't blame us, oil industry chiefs told a skeptical Congress. Top executives of the country's five biggest oil companies said Tuesday they know record fuel prices are hurting people, but they argued it's not their fault and their huge profits are in line with other industries.

Appearing before a House committee, the executives were pressed to explain why they should continue to get billions of dollars in tax breaks when they made $123 billion last year and motorists are paying record gasoline prices at the pump.

"On April Fool's Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said, aiming his remarks at the five executives sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a congressional hearing room.

The key words here are "record profits." I'm not against folks making profits, but when an entire country is dependent on your product, and the price of your materials goes up, it just seems wrong to raise the price of your product a disproportionate amount. If oil prices go up, gas prices should go up equivalently.

There is a simple solution to this, and it's perfectly free-market. I promised myself back when gas was $0.89 in my hometown of Denver, Colorado that if gas prices ever got over $3.00 a gallon, I'd park the car, and only use it for necessities. When Katrina hit, gas here in Oregon went over $3.00 a gallon, and I've never looked back. The car gets used once, maybe twice a week, only when my wife needs to go out, since she's got medical problems that prevent her from riding a bicycle currently. We're working on solving those, though, so eventually, the car will be used even less than it is.

The simple solution is that if you're tired of high gas prices and spending your whole paycheck to fill up your car...stop filling up! As long as people continue to show their willingness to fill up their Hummers and Excursions and F-550's at the pump, gas prices will continue to rise, and gas companies will continue to show record profits, and nothing congress can do will change that. Until we, as consumers, tell the companies that "we're mad as hell, and we're not gonna take it anymore," they'll continue to stick it right to you at the pump. Think about it the next time you fill up your car, be it a Prius or a Hummer. Just remember, the bicycle is one of the most, if not THE most, efficient engine man has ever invented. It's also the simple most effective thing you can do to save the planet, increase homeland security, deal with gridlock, clean up the air, decrease health care costs, and help a lot of folks who can't help themselves.

Just think about it...