Gas nightmare

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the urgent need for Americans to prepare for $5-a-gallon gasoline. How naive and uninformed am I? Well, throw away that dated column and hang on to your hat. The "Dean of Oil Analysts" says to get ready for a prolonged period — 10 to 15 years — of $12 to $15 a gallon gasoline!

Now let that gloom and doom prediction set in. I am trying to gauge the impact of $12 gasoline, and my limited mind simply cannot fathom all of the potential lifestyle changes that lie ahead.

Take just a minute and put this equation into your life. If you have an 18-gallon gas tank and fill it up, your tab could run over $200! Experts predict that at this price level, rationing will be mandatory. But I'm concerned about the impact on lives that this dire prediction can bring.

Granted, past dire predictions have proven less than accurate in countless instances. But who would have imagined just five short years ago that we would now have $4 a gallon gas here in our region? And all experts agree now that $5 a gallon gas will arrive here by summer's end.

The real problem is there is no viable short-term solution in sight. Our federal government has already halted deliveries to our Strategic Oil Reserve, and that has not had and will not have a nickel's worth of impact on pump prices.

As the problem grows, Congress will almost certainly start levying a windfall profit tax on the billions of dollars in profits from the oil companies. But that won't help to any great extent.

We can mandate improved gas mileage, but that will take years to accomplish. And even in the most draconian move imaginable, the government could nationalize the oil companies but that fundamental eruption would only help so much.

We must demand in capital letters that drilling begin in any conceivable location in the United States for precious oil.

We must demand that our federal government spend as much as we are spending on the war in Iraq to bring oil independence within the next 10 years.

Just to be fair, there are other "experts" who scoff at this $12 a gallon prediction. They believe that development in other countries like India and China will soon slow and demand for gasoline will decrease. But in the long run, we're facing a crisis unlike any in our history and we'd better face the devil today because tomorrow may be too late.

Please understand. I have no desire to turn this column into an expansive discussion on oil concerns and pump prices for gasoline. I'd much rather discuss social issues or the fascinating world of politics. But this doomsday prediction on gasoline prices — if anywhere near accurate — will relegate all of the other pressing issues of the day to a second-tier status. And it could bring about some of the most drastic changes in our daily lives of anything witnessed in my lifetime.

Michael Jensen is a Southeast Missourian columnist and publisher of the Standard Democrat in Sikeston, Mo.

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