Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Consumers, Rather than the Industries, Should Define the Markets

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

There is a lot of talk going around lately concerning oil, and more specifically gas prices. I saw an article today about why the cost of gas can go up, even if the cost of oil isn’t going up. I heard a guy on talk radio explaining that since we use oil in the production of other products that we shouldn’t worry about looking for alternate fuels (after all, as he explained, only two-thirds of our oil usage is used for making fuel). And out of all of this, the answer is always across the board that we should be drilling here in the US.

Let me start out by saying that I’m not opposed to drilling here in the US. I am opposed to drilling here in the US if the savings aren’t passed on to the consumer, but as a whole I’m not opposed to drilling in the US. Dependency on foreign oil is a bad thing, because if foreign oil ever decides to break up with us and start seeing other people for awhile, then we’ll eventually have a mass shutdown in transportation.

To me the bigger issue is a dependency on oil in general, and the potential to one day run out of oil while still being dependent on it. I get tired of environmental whack jobs, just as much as the next guy, who are trying to convince me that the world will one day implode on itself because of something or another that exists or is happening. The problem is that I also readily acknowledge that if it wasn’t for an almost hyper vigilant policing of factories, fuel burning machines, and waste disposal that we could easily be living in filth and pollution.

We say that our environmental policies are stricter than they need to be, and can’t we just ease up a little? But isn’t it better that we’re more strict than less strict as long as it doesn’t harm us? We make statements that suggest that if we stopped recycling that landfills wouldn’t fill up as fast as we think, and we wouldn’t run out of anything all that fast either. I just wonder why we would want to stop if we’re unable to say things like we’ll never run out of landfill space or we’ll never run out of resources. So we have more than enough right now, but we don’t have an endless supply.

I think the biggest problem we run into is how we are framing the issue. We want to talk about where we should get our oil. We want to talk about whether we could live for the next hundred years without recycling. We want to talk about whether or not we can breathe right at this moment. We don’t talk about industry.

I promise you that if the oil companies suddenly realized that the potential for earnings were higher in some sort of alternate fuel, even after making all the necessary changes to the refinery systems, that we would stop using oil within a year. It’s like when the music industry realized that people were using mp3s out of convenience, and not because you could get them for free online, and they started gearing their marketing towards the ease and economy of downloading official recordings (not for free, but for cheap) when a couple of years before they were trying to convince us that there was nothing better than actually having the physical CD.

I want you to consider this statement from the article I mentioned, “Gas prices can be moved by oil prices, refinery problems or even weather that might keep drivers at home.”

Do you realize that the last bit means that if we don’t spend as much money one week on gas as they want that they’ll raise the price to compensate? Unless I misunderstand and it means that prices will go lower if we get stuck at home, but that doesn’t seem to make sense.

The truth is that industry is always in flux. The companies that adapt to that flux tend to do well. The companies that try to maintain a status quo that isn’t there tend to not do as well… unless of course they spend a lot of money to pass legislation that forces a status quo that as a culture, and as consumers, we were moving away from.

Regardless of what you believe, your spending is your voice. Your habits are your voice. I don’t recycle absolutely everything, but I do try to recycle as much as possible. Even when I don’t have a pizza delivery job, I tend to drive more than various people I know, but when possible, I’ve purchased cars with higher gas mileage. I might even one day buy a hybrid. I don’t know enough about them to make an informed decision, and they’re not in my price range yet.

If you don’t believe in recycling or high “miles per gallon” ratings then it’s fine. The point is that we should do as much as we can with our spending, and our habits, to let the industries that we, as consumers, keep going what it is that we do want, and what it is that we do believe. When we just let them tell us how it has to be, we are doing ourselves a disservice for sure, and we may be doing a disservice to future generations as well.

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