Hooray for Oil at Over 100 Dollars ?
The price of oil over 100 dollars ? But that’s very good news, one hears here and there. Think about it, explain the advocates of this paradox : expensive oil, it’s the beginning of the end of a product that undermines our environment. It’s a powerful incentive to change consumption habits ; to economize on energy ; to invest in solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen ; to ship merchandise by rail rather than by truck ; to build bicycle paths.... It’s the only way to put a stop to the suicidal warming of the planet and to contain the rise in sea level ; the surge in prices will succeed there where people have failed. Have people not, in order to save the environment, strung conference upon conference in vain these last thirty years and without any tangible result ? Expensive oil is the opportunity to remake the world ! Those who rejoice this way are perhaps not wrong - in a dream vision of our life in the long term. But be careful not to get too enraptured. For now, reality is far from matching their reasoning.
First of all, industrialists don’t always react to a surge in prices the way one could hope. Rather than changing direction towards new energies, oil groups shift into high gear to drill in ever more distant locations, still deeper, still more dirtily. Thus, Total has just announced a billion euros investment a year in Canadian oil shale sands, the exploitation of which is, according to environmental organizations, highly polluting. « The group is doing practically nothing in clean energy, given its phenomenal financial situation. This strategy is deplorable ! “ laments Friends of the Earth.
Then, very concretely, expensive oil has dramatic consequences for the most vulnerable households. In France, it’s not just fishermen who are concerned. So are all those who use home heating oil or natural gas for heat, all those who - especially in rural areas - cannot do without their car. For poor families, the increase in oil prices is a nightmare. The government must intervene to help them adapt. Not necessarily by reducing taxes on fuel or gas. The government can also help finance home insulation, purchase of vehicles that use less fuel, solar water heating equipment ...
In the environmental domain, as elsewhere, no ‘invisible hand’ exists that will resolve all problems through the simple magic of price development. The price of oil, experts assure us, will continue to climb. Before crying, ‘Hooray for expensive oil,’ we must assure that governments commit themselves to going along with this change in era by providing the means.
Translation by Leslie Thatcher, Truthout
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