« The New Modernization | Main | Would You Believe Me If I Told You That Glenn Reynolds Fundamentally Misunderstands the Global Oil market? »

May 03, 2006

Piling On

(Posted by John.)

Tim Lambert and Matthew Yglesias have already noted this little turd of stupdity from Glenn Reynolds, and I think I'll just add my scorn to the pile.

Of course, if we seized the Saudi and Iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet, dictators would be broke, and poor nations would benefit from cheap energy. But we'd be called imperialist oppressors, then.

Actually, you'd be imperialist oppressors then.  It's pretty rich for Glenn to claim that "poor nations" would benefit from cheap energy, when more than 1/3 of the world's oil imports go to the 10 richest countries.  Of course, the largest importer of crude would be the United States.

Let me put it this way - if gas prices went down, who would benefit more:  Prius owners, or Hummer drivers?
  Actually, given the disparity in wealth that exists in the world, the proper comparison should probably be between hummers and bicycles.

More salient is the fact that seems to elude Reynolds:  Oil production is already at full tilt.  Does anyone seriously think that OPEC can control production when there's such immense sums to be made?  Before 2000, western governments had convinced OPEC that $30/barrel was dangerously destabilizing.  You can only imagine the dreams of avarice that are going on in Tehran and Riyadh now.

Whether you prefer structural explanations (Chinese demand, peak production) or more financial ones (western speculation) the facts are pretty clear - OPEC has effectively lost control over the price of oil.

It should go without saying that invading countries expressly to lower the price of gasoline in the US should be considered an unmentionable obscenity.  It seems nothing is too obscene for Republicans.

May 3, 2006 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c572d53ef00d834877aad53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Piling On:

Comments

The problem with calling people like Reynolds imperialist is that they apparently take it is a compliment.

Posted by: Cyrus | May 3, 2006 11:53:53 AM

Yeah, right! Invade them all! What makes those fake countries who have oil think that the oil under their countries belongs to them, instead of Exxon/Mobil? Glenn Reynolds should be Secretary of Defense instead of that wimpy, terror-supporting Rumsfeld. We should grant status as a state to the oil corporations, let them hire some 'asset-protection' troops, and give them support from the US Navy and Air Force. Pax Romana worked for Rome, we need a modernization version based on oil company hegemony. Bring it on!

(I feel better now that my inner imperialist has been freed - it is kinda like an orgasmic ecstasy. I can almost feel the heat from those roasting anti-freedom bodies.)

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 3, 2006 12:17:38 PM

I guess Glen is just frustrated over the lack of enthusiam of the left for increased domestic production. No one seems to mention the supply side and yet there is plenty we can do. Offshore rigs in CA that were nixed could be done. We can drill in the part of ANWR that was specifically set aside for exploration by Congress. Hell, even Ted Kennedy is whining about putting windmills offshore.

Why is the left not interested in increeased production of any kind?

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 3, 2006 12:27:57 PM

Because we hate America. Duh.

Posted by: The Left | May 3, 2006 12:38:43 PM

Because we hate America

More likely a lack of understanding of Eco 201

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 3, 2006 12:44:29 PM

We can drill in the part of ANWR that was specifically set aside for exploration by Congress.... Why is the left not interested in increeased production of any kind?

Maybe this is because the oil in ANWR is:

1. very hard to get at
2. very EXPENSIVE to get at
3. will not magically go into Americans' gas tanks to lower gas prices, as the ill-informed seem to think, but will go into the global oil market, having a negligible effect on the issue in question (the price of gas in the US)
4. not a lot of oil to begin with

Oil is getting more and more expensive because there's a limited amount of it and we're consuming it faster and faster - which means, surprise surprise, we'll effectively run out of it at some point. So our efforts would be better spent looking for a better, cheaper energy source.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | May 3, 2006 12:47:55 PM

I guess Glen is just frustrated over the lack of enthusiam of the left for increased domestic production.

Yes, that must be exactly why he advocates war. Because he's frustrated with "the left". I'm willing to bet that's why most of the warmongers advocate war.

No one seems to mention the supply side and yet there is plenty we can do. Offshore rigs in CA that were nixed could be done. We can drill in the part of ANWR that was specifically set aside for exploration by Congress.

Yes, this makes perfect sense. Let's put known environmentally destructive industries smack in the middle of relatively pristine environments, all in order to have some unknown (but relatively trivial) additional oil capacity (fossil fuels themselves being environmentally damaging) at some point in the future. Or, we could actually focus on reducing demand and seeking clean net-positive energy sources...

Hell, even Ted Kennedy is whining about putting windmills offshore.

Kennedy is wrong. Period. I note that the windmills are not like the other things Fred is referring to, in that they're clean net-producer energy, not oil, with all of its attendant negative environment effects. Funny how he elides those two different things in order to work Kennedy into it.

Posted by: paperwight | May 3, 2006 12:56:16 PM

Lungfish,

There is no better, cheaper energy source than oil. Ethanol and other biofuels are a joke, either requiring more energy to produce than they provide or producing such a low ERoEI (energy returned over energy invested) that we would have to cover every last inch of land on the planet with fuel-producing crops to produce anywhere near as much energy as we consume in the form of oil.

Hydrogen fuel-cells are a bullshit sci-fi fantasy, solar and wind produce minuscule amounts of electricity compared to current production, and the conversion of coal to oil would be an ecological disaster.

Our best bet would be to build dozens of nuclear plants (including breeder plants) and a high-speed, electric rail system to replace the trucking industry and the airlines, but that isn't going to happen for political reasons. Basically, this country is screwed.

Posted by: Jay | May 3, 2006 1:04:18 PM

There is no better, cheaper energy source than oil.

At $70 a barrel and rising? And that doesn't even take into account the cost of environmental damage incurred by burning the stuff.

solar and wind produce minuscule amounts of electricity compared to current production

At present that's hardly surprising considering that neither has gotten more than relative peanuts to develop them. That, along with your complaint about fuel cells, is a bit like complaining that commercial air travel isn't feasible - from the vantage point of 1922.

dozens of nuclear plants (including breeder plants)

This will do for a while, but eventually you'll run out of fissile material. We need sources of energy that are actually sustainable - which means developing solar and wind to their full potential. In the meantime, sitting there and going "we're fucked we're fucked we're fucked!" isn't any more productive than drilling in ANWR.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | May 3, 2006 1:19:05 PM

Fred is right, if the left weren't so frustrating, right wingers would not have such a pent-up desire for pointless wars that they release as an outlet for their violent instincts and frustrations.

Or, more likely, the right, as embodied by Glenn Reynolds, is just stupid.

Posted by: Constantine | May 3, 2006 1:23:24 PM

It should go without saying that invading countries expressly to lower the price of gasoline in the US should be considered an unmentionable obscenity.

That's only true if you consider brown people with funny names to be real human beings, on a par with, say, Americans. Wingnots have a few problems in this area...

There is no better, cheaper energy source than oil.

Say, Jay, what precisely is the replacement cost of a gallon of petrol?

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | May 3, 2006 2:16:20 PM

This will do for a while, but eventually you'll run out of fissile material.

And, y'know, God was as much of a fucker in where he chose to put all the uranium.

Posted by: nick s | May 3, 2006 2:31:47 PM

Lungfish,

I should have been clearer about what I meant when I wrote that there are no better, cheaper sources of energy avaiblabe to us. I was referring to the ERoEI of oil, which is roughly 30, much higher than coal or ethanol.
As for solar power, it requires large amounts of cheap oil to develop. Photovoltaic cells and batteries to store the electricity both contain plastic, as well as sillicon and various metals that will be harder to come by if rising energy costs make it much more expensive to extract and transport them. No one has developed a way to make solar-power cars and trucks and electric cars have run into major problems, which is why car companies chose to invest in hybrids instead.

You're right that uranium will run out eventually, too. However, a massive investment in nuclear power might by us some more time or ease the transition to a world with lower overall energy use.

As for the benefits of running around saying "we're fucked", I would say that it is better to know about and prepare for a coming shortage, than it is to ignore it or pretend some magical new technology will save us. Assuming that alternative energy will save us if we just throw enough money at it is a hell of a lot more futile than pointing out that global energy consumption is going to decline and that this will require us to radically change our society.

Posted by: Jay | May 3, 2006 2:39:19 PM

What a gem this is:

"I do think that seizing Saudi and Iranian oil would be entirely morally justifiable on terms usually approved of by the left: They didn't earn it, they inherited it (it's like the Estate Tax writ large!). They're extracting huge profits for fatcats at the expense of the poor.

Redistribute wealth by force? Yeah. He's right. I guess sometimes I just lose sight of how hard it is for the workaday Exxon-Mobil exec to scrape out a living in the big mean world. It's so easy to forget, you know? WOrrying about the homeless and the inusrance-bereft working poor? Because here I sit drowning in the blissful decadent indolence of my ramen bowl, nary a thought for their neverending struggle for survival. I'm ashamed. Maybe we should redistribute them some wealth. I mean, how can we stand idly by as our own poor fatcats are hopelessly out-fatted by iron-fisted anachronist cabals? This is obviously unacceptable, so probably the best idea is to send a couple of hundred thousand kids who earn 15-grand a year to go get them some more money. That will alleviate my liberal guilt, then it's back to the noodle bowl with a clean conscience.

OK-- for real. The whole idea of "redistribution of wealth" as I understand it (not that I am advocating for or against it) is to advantage the poor in hopes of levelling the socioeconomic playing field. The poor WILL NOT see any gain from the seizure of Iranian and Saudi oil reserves (they will, however, get many vacations to distant deserts). Oil companies will. Incidentally and speaking of which, the only company/person in the oil game who made any effort at all to reach out to the poor w/r/t gas prices (and yes i realize there are ulterior motives here and he is far from a saint, is CITGO/Hugo Chavez (yeah, Glen...did I just hear you say 'redistribution of wealth'?)).
So please.
There's really no point in arguing Reynolds on this, as two minutes of thought on the matter reveals this word-vomit for what it is-- cheap pandering to his own dissonant choir.

Posted by: petomai | May 3, 2006 3:39:36 PM

I do think that seizing Saudi and Iranian oil would be entirely morally justifiable on terms usually approved of by the left: They didn't earn it, they inherited it (it's like the Estate Tax writ large!). They're extracting huge profits for fatcats at the expense of the poor.

The day the libertarian right comes out with a serious proposal for the repayment of Native Americans for the use of their land (adjusted to today's dollars, and with interest) before any other spending or tax reduction, is the day I *may* take Reynold's and his ilk seriously when they whine about this kind of thing.

Posted by: paperwight | May 3, 2006 3:44:51 PM

Glenn also doesn't realize that controlling Saudi Arabia's oil fields would not make oil any cheaper, either because he types faster than he thinks, or because he's fundamentally stupid.

The Saudis are already pumping out as much as they can. What Glenn might only understand subsconsciously is that invading and controlling their oil fields will simply give the revenue of that already-expensive oil to Americans, rather than the Saudis. Practicalities aside, we can argue over whether this is a good thing ("better Exxon than the Saudi sheiks!") , but it won't make the price of oil a dollar less expensive. This should be obvious to anyone who thinks about the issue for half a second. Oil pumped out and sold on the free market is just as expensive regardless of who sells it.

Posted by: Constantine | May 3, 2006 3:57:33 PM

Funny how [Fred] elides those two different things in order to work Kennedy into it.

Hey, I heard Kennedy once drove off a bridge and drowned a woman, is that true?

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft | May 3, 2006 8:13:31 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.