GLOVER COLUMN: Americans must kick gas habit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2007

About a month ago my vehicle was getting close to empty, and I had to stop to top off my tank. As I dipped the nozzle into my tank I looked up at the price listing at the station and saw the regular unleaded at this particular station had dropped to $2.01 a gallon.

My heart leaped with joy at the thought that gas might once again drop below $2 a gallon, but alas my hopes were dashed in the following weeks, as gas has continually crept up in price and now hovers around $2.33.

It has become more and more common in recent years for gas prices to fluctuate tremendously from month to month &045; hovering around $3 a gallon and then dropping towards the low $2 range. A shift in global politics or national disaster &045; or even rumor of either &045; sends the price per barrel of crude oil rocketing up.

Email newsletter signup

I remember a simpler time in the not so distant past, when the price for a gallon of gas sat around 99 cents a gallon and I could drive around at my leisure on $20 worth of gas a week. Those times are but a faded memory as the price of gas and its fluctuations have made $2 a gallon seem like the time to buy up and hoard gas &045; or at least top off the tank before the next wave hits.

Of course there are numerous situations taking place on the world stage that are having tremendous impact on the price at the pump. There is, obviously, the War in Iraq, which has depleted the output of Iraqi oil fields that were the 14th leading petroleum producing country in 2004. There are the tensions between the Iranian government, whose country was the fourth leading producer in the same ranking, and the United States. The shift towards socialism by Venezuela, a country ranked ninth in production and with ties to one of the major U.S. oil companies, and their leader’s determination to use the country’s oil supply as political leverage has hurt prices.

There is also a fluctuation in price of crude oil per barrel, which contains around 42 gallons of oil, lately stemming from increased demand for the black gold. In the past ten years China has significantly stepped up its use of fossil fuels and is in good standing with oil rich countries like Venezuela, which has shifted from the United States to China for its primary oil market, and Iran.

An interesting side note I would like to interject at this point is that in 2004 the United States was the number three leading producing country in the world, behind Saudi Arabia, with whom we have strong ties, and Russia, with whom we do not. However, in the truest of American traditions, that same year we topped list for petroleum importing countries and petroleum consuming countries.

It seems the United States, as President Bush has stated, is addicted to oil. And just like an addict it doesn’t matter the cost or the profit made by the deal off of our habit we must get our fix.

In the country’s dependent state, outside influences such as OPEC have set market prices and limited oil flow to suit their needs, i.e. lining their pockets, as they watch the U.S. clamor for its much needed oil. Not to be left out of the profits gained on the commodity, domestic oil companies have set record profits in the past several years as they pass the buck on to the consumer.

The government, trying to appear empathetic to the plight of the public, has called for a move away from fossil fuels for the country’s energy needs. The same government called a senate committee hearing to question the oil companies on their record profits. The committee questioned the companies about their profits in light of the continual rising gas prices. They asked them about their ethical standards and whether there could be any price gouging involved in the supply of gasoline to the public. The one thing they didn’t do is put any of the CEOs being questioned from these companies under oath.

In lighter news the dependency of the country on the gasoline provided by these corporations and foreign entities could be solved in the next 30 to 50 years &045; and not by the energy agenda being pushed by Bush. According to several theories the current consumption rate of oil will deplete the oil reserves in the next several decades. Since oil is formed naturally in the earth too slowly to sustain the demand &045; opinion being that oil is formed at around 1 percent of the current consumption rate &045; it cannot be looked at as a renewable resource in light of current use.

Thus, to stem the dependency on a fluctuating, oligopoly driven oil market the United States must move away from its addiction. If we starts really looking at the problem now, rather than later, we can ease off the addiction at a pace that suits the industry and the pockets of consumers. If we wait until we either cannot sustain the cost or the production cannot sustain the demand, the United Sates will face going cold turkey from an addiction that will have one hell of a withdrawal as it leaves the system.

Brandon Glover is a staff writer for The Times. He can be reached by e-mail to