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Excessiveness and High Energy prices

With the rising prices of oil, you may have heard me say this before, but I don’t feel bad for people who are feeling crunched by the price of gasoline. Similarly, I don’t feel bad for the majority of people who were hit by sub-prime mortgages. Is it because I’m a hopeless cynic? Perhaps one might characterize me that way. But to me, I feel this way because I’m anti anything excessive.

To explain what I mean, take the looming gas crisis; who are the people hit the hardest by high gas prices? These are the people who work in the city, but wanted an excessively large house, so they pushed further and further away to the suburbs where it was more affordable, and they wanted 2 excessively large automobiles in their driveway (because they can). These are the people who will be hit the hardest, with their energy bills rising, fuel expenses to commute to work will rise, and their lifestyle will need to change.

Do I feel bad for the 2 parents who have 2 kids and live in a 4000 square foot, 6-bedroom house, but commute 2 hours each way to work, who will need to sell their house because they can’t afford it with the rising energy prices? Not even remotely. Just ask anyone who grew up in China or India. They have had high energy prices their entire lives. They have already had to deal with the same issues that us in North America are going to have to deal with. They have already learned not be excessive.

I’m not saying everyone needs to live in a small condo in the city. I’m just making a general statement that we all need to be less excessive if we are going to get through the challenges we have ahead of ourselves. We need to become less dependent on energy, and if high oil prices will change people, then I’m happy. Is buying a Hybrid car going to save the world? Are trees going to pop up as you drive along in your hybrid car? Most certainly not. It’s going to take more than just buying a hybrid car to get through this, but if someone is replacing their SUV with a hybrid car, it’s a start at least.

Speaking of gas prices, Wikipedia has a neat table that shows you retail Gas prices around the world so you can get an idea where we stand in comparison to the rest of the world (All prices in USD):

  • Netherlands: $2.47/litre ($9.35/gal) – 2008-05-25
  • Australia: $1.48/litre ($5.60/gal) – 2008-05-27
  • Canada: $1.34/litre ($5.07/gal) – 2008-05-30
  • United States: $1.047/litre ($3.96/gal) – 2008-05-30
  • China: $0.74/litre ($2.80/gal)
  • Venezuela: $0.05/litre ($0.19/gal) – 2008-01-12

I know what my critics are saying now. “I thought you said China has high energy prices? $2.80/gallon hardly seems high”. Well, the average salary for a Chinese worker in the city is roughly $1800 RMB. $2.80USD/gal is roughly $19.43RMB/gal, so an average worker makes less than $24,000RMB a year and they would need to pay roughly $19RMB per gallon to put fuel in their car. You do the math. (I won’t even both doing the math for the average Chinese factory worker who makes $600RMB/month).

Al Gore has long been warning us about our impact on the environment. One of his tactics is to show you a picture of a mountain from 20 years ago with snow on it, and then show you that same mountain now (With no snow on it). Were the pictures taken at the same time of the year? Who the hell knows, he doesn’t tell you that part. Do we always have the same amount of snowfall every winter, year after year? Definitely not. Is it possibly that the picture taken 20 years later was taken in the Spring and the one taken 20 years ago was taken in the Winter? Perhaps.

The point is, he’s using arbitrary natural disasters and arbitrary pictures of mountains and glaciers to scare you into changing your habits. President Bush uses these same tactics in selling the War On Terror. Drive fear into the masses in order to meet an objective. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for what Al Gore is doing, and I’m pretty certain that he has noble intentions and isn’t doing this for entirely selfish reasons.

But on the other hand, I look at things a little bit differently. I see how excessive people are, and I see how that excessiveness impacts the environment. Al Gore is the first person to say that we as a society are excessive and we need to change. But he sells his story differently than I do. Is Global Warming going to cause a global catastrophe where we all die from a huge cyclone or earthquake? Not likely. Are the natural disasters we’ve been seeing lately a direct result of Global Warming? Perhaps, but probably not directly. Are our lifestyles having a detrimental effect on the earth? Most certainly. Are we going to need to change our lifestyles in order to survive? Definitely.

I’ve been writing about environmental concerns for several years, and although I’d love everyone to change their lifestyle for the right reasons (To be good to the earth), at the same time it’s somewhat bittersweet to see people change their lifestyles for economic reasons (High oil prices). How do I feel about the big oil companies making record profits when oil prices are high? Not great, but if the environment is better off for it, so be it.

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