As we continue to clear the decks at the end of a busy week, we thank Colonel Haiku for the pointer to this absurd L.A. Times editorial about the joys of higher gas prices.
This one deserves the full fisk. As a result, the entire editorial will appear right here in this post — a rare instance where fair use applies to the full reprinting of an entire piece. Why? Because I have commentary on virtually every paragraph of this turd of a piece — and my commentary is more effective when you see precisely what I’m responding to.
Don’t like it, L.A. Times lawyers? File your lawsuit, baby! Let’s make copyright history!
My “bring it on!” challenge now disposed of, let’s begin the fisking:
Angelenos don’t get many opportunities to grouse about the weather, so in this town our preferred topic of complainversation is gasoline prices. Lately, we’ve had a wealth of material.
“Complainversation” is an interesting term — coming from the same publication that coined the term “funemployment.” The message, right from the get-go? If you’re complaining about high gas prices? You’re just bitching for no reason.
The rest of the editorial bears out this analysis.
Prices at the pump have been rising for the last five weeks, hitting an average in California of $4.035 for a gallon of regular on Monday, a 5.2% jump over the previous week. This is more than just an inconvenience: If the spike continues, it could derail the nation’s economic recovery. It is also giving rise, as such things always do, to conspiracy theories by people of all political persuasions — most of which aren’t worth the carbon dioxide emitted in their utterance.
On the right, it’s popular to blame President Obama. His “green” energy policies, according to this theory, are the reason it’s costing $80 a pop to fill the tanks of our Ford Explorers; if he would only drill, baby, drill in more places, we could restore America’s God-given right to cheap gas. The fact that this makes no sense hardly slows the chatter on talk radio or the rhetoric from GOP presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum, who repeated this canard Monday. The complaints are enough to make one wonder whom Republicans blamed when similar price spikes happened during the presidency of former oil executiveGeorge W. Bush. In any case, it takes decades from the time a new oil permit is approved before a field is producing reliable amounts of oil, meaning that even if the wildest dreams of oil executives to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other protected places were granted today, it wouldn’t have a noticeable impact on gas prices until around 2030.
This is always what you hear whenever domestic production is proposed. It would only provide oil for x number of days, and if we started drilling today, we wouldn’t see results until year y.
It’s a genius argument, isn’t it? It’s a good reason why you shouldn’t save for retirement! Why, if you’re 40 today, and you want to retire at 60, you’re not going to see any benefits until 2032! So why bother?
They’ll still be making that argument in 2030, you know.
But I think the best example of what utter crap that argument is, is the fact that the debate over whether to drill in ANWR has been going on since 1977. So let’s do the math, and figure out when we would have seen benefits if we had started drilling when the idea first came to Congress’s attention. If it’s 2012 now, and we wouldn’t see a reduction in gas prices until 2030, that means that it would take 18 years to see that benefit. So you add 18 to 1977, and, let’s see [commence arithmetical mumbling, 8 and 7, that's 5, carry the 1, 2 and 7 is 9, mumble mumble . . .] — it looks like we would have been seeing the benefits since 1995. Seventeen years ago.
NOT TO MENTION (because the L.A. Times doesn’t mention it) the fact that Obama and his advisors have been, shall we say, blase? about the prospect of higher gas prices. No, we shall not say blase. We will say positively enthusiastic.
Let’s review. Before he joined the Obama administration, indeed two months before the 2008 election (September 2008), a man named Steven Chu said: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” He wanted higher gas prices! WANTED THEM! How high? Over $8 per gallon.
That’s right. In May 2008, TIME reported: “Across the European Union, the average cost of a gallon of gas runs to about $8.70.”
And when he was elected, Barack Obama said: Steven Chu? That’s the guy I want for my energy secretary!
Somehow, none of this makes its way into the editorial.
The left has its own political talking points. Some on the fringes even believe rising prices are part of a right-wing conspiracy to slow the economic recovery and thus hurt Obama’s reelection chances. Congressional Democrats don’t go quite that far, but they regularly call for probes into price-fixing by the oil giants, although no evidence of this practice has emerged. There are myriad variables involved in the setting of market prices for gas: the price of crude oil, which shifts according to such factors as supply and demand, market disruption or feared disruptions, and speculation by commodity traders; shutdowns of U.S. refineries for routine maintenance; switches in gasoline formulas from winter to more expensive summer blends; and so on. It strains credulity to believe that all of the players involved in this process are conspiring without a hint of the secret leaking out.
OK, your obligatory nod to balance is satisfied, editors. Time to talk about the great news of higher gas prices!
Whatever the cause of high prices, the good news is that Americans have more opportunities to wean themselves from the gas pump with every passing year.
The GOOD news!
And although we sympathize with those who can’t reduce or end their addiction — truck drivers and construction workers whose jobs require gas-guzzling four-wheel-drive pickups come to mind — they make up a minority of those who complain about rising costs, most of whom could begin to solve their own problem with a little creativity.
Listen up, you non-creative nincompoops. You’re about to get The Lecture.
A world of alternatives to the internal combustion engine is flowering, and complaining about the cost is pointless because there’s something to fit every pocketbook: The very rich can buy high-performance electric sports cars made by new companies such as Tesla and Fisker, and those who can’t or don’t want to spend so much can ride public transportation, with Measure R-funded rail lines on the way in Los Angeles County.
Mmm, Los Angeles public transportation. Soooooo good. So good, in fact, that I firmly believe every member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board takes advantage of its wondrous possibilities. Or, you know, they will. Once those Measure R rail lines come online. Any day now.
Hey, those promised rail benefits will accrue instantly, right? Unlike those stupid benefits from ANWR which will take until 2030, we’ll see benefits from Measure R as soon as . . . 2032:
Yesterday came a report from Metro (PDF) that proposed a construction timeline for the Subway to the Sea, as well as a host of other projects in Los Angeles that will be funded by the $40 billion that Measure R will likely raise by 2040. The problem is, even with Measure R, Metro claims that there isn’t enough money to fund the subway all the way to Santa Monica, and even the 10-mile extension to Westwood wouldn’t be completed until 2032.
What’s that? Even a basic result from Measure R would not be available until 2032 — two years after we would see benefits from ANWR drilling if we started today?
But, but . . . that’s different!!!
In between are a host of options: bicycling to work (or, for those who don’t like to pedal, riding a new generation of electric bikes), riding high-mileage scooters and mopeds, or buying a hybrid or electric car.
Just moped to work! Like all the L.A. Times editors (OK, none of them) do!
Some next-generation hybrids will hit showrooms this summer, when a newly improved Ford Fusion hybrid arrives and Toyota launches its Prius C, a smaller and more economical version of its popular gas-sipper.
Moreover, not all the options even involve transportation. People can save dramatically on gasoline by moving closer to their workplaces.
Like all the L.A. Times editors do!
Moving, like all the choices above, has costs and drawbacks: Housing in job centers is often more expensive than in the suburbs, L.A. transit is still spotty and slow, and scootering is only for the courageous. But those who refuse to change their behavior in response to higher prices deserve to pay them.
Does this attitude sound familiar? It should:
“If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting 8 miles a gallon, you know,” Obama said laughingly. “You might want to think about a trade-in.”
Again: if you’re upset about high gas prices? It’s your own fault, you gas-guzzling, non-creative idiot.
The weekly spikes and declines of gas prices cause a lot of economic turmoil and consumer angst, but they matter less than the overall trend, and that can head in only one direction: upward. Rising demand in China and India ensures that gasoline is going to become more expensive over time, regardless of who’s in the White House. Americans can adapt or go broke. So now is as good a time as any to consider trading in that SUV for something more suited to the 21st century.
Again: you might want to think about a trade-in.
It’s as if Barack himself were on the editorial board! (Frankly, it wouldn’t make much different to the editorials if he were.)
And with that bit of arrogance, I hereby demand that every member of the L.A. Times editorial board publish the details concerning every vehicle they own.
It’s called transparency, mother[expletive deleted]ers. Show it. Now.