Euler’s gone

Brandon Evans, IV Leader Guest Columnist

There is no better time than now to end or at least confront the misconceived debate surrounding oil. For the benefit of bias in statistical reference, I will use British Petroleum’s (BP) world statistical review to base projections on data. I would prefer not to use information on geological study from economists or corporate entities considering their track record with honesty. Scientific estimates should be reserved for scientists, so the information regarding oil data provided in the following is, at least, conservative and generous to “big oil”. Over the recent rise in gasoline prices there have been a number of fingers pointed and several ill-advised solutions put forward, some of which by our entrusted representatives in Washington. Blame has gone to President Obama, environmentalists, Wall Street traders and speculators (who actually set the physical price), oil companies profits (price gouging), middle-east unrest, foreign-oil dependency, and many other less note-worthy options. Rather than attempt to go through each individual target of blame and reason why it is or isn’t the problem, I will just explain the problem. The problem is you, the Earth, and economics.

First let’s establish the facts and a foundation. There is 1.333 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves in the earth’s surface (meaning that using scientific methods, which are quite good, we accurately estimate there to be 1.333 trillion barrels of oil left to be recovered, currently). In total the world’s population uses about 30.7 billion barrels every day. This led BP chief economist, Jeremy Leggett, to predict that at current consumption rates there was 40 years worth of oil remaining. We as an individual country use 18.7 million barrels a day or 22.3% of the world’s oil. We can hope that new advancements in technology in the very near future will slow the inevitable or we can immediately adapt. Before moving on to solutions let’s address the errant solutions.

According to the Department of Energy the price per gallon of gasoline can be broken down as follows-65%; crude oil (source) and associated profits, 14%; distribution, marketing, retail costs, and associated profits, 13%; federal, state, and local taxes where applicable, and 8%; refining and associated profits.  Try not to worry about the 18.4 cents per gallon the federal government gets for the 378 million gallons of motor gasoline Americans consume each day. The tax revenue in partial will be returned in the form of $4 billion in oil subsidies the U.S. expends each year according to the New York Times.         As for oil company profits and speculators there is certainly a point, but even that party will soon enough be coming to an end. As for the middle-east unrest, it certainly has an effect but we shouldn’t be too dramatic considering there has never really been “rest” in the middle-east. As for Obama it appears that if you don’t like him it doesn’t matter what the facts are (And I‘m certainly not an Obama-defender).

That leaves our dependence on foreign oil. The U.S. imports over 9 million barrels a day, while domestically producing only 5.3 million barrels a day.  The three leading nations we import from are Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico in that order.  Supposing we became completely independent, the U.S. has 28.4 billion barrels of proven reserves under its soil, enough to last at current U.S. consumption rates for just over 4 years.  So as you can see, with as much sarcasm as one can muster, all we have to do is “drill, baby, drill”.

One explanation comes from Dr. M. King Hubbert know as Hubbert’s Peak Oil theory. This theory stipulates non-renewable resources as a bell-curve. Showing the rise of consumption and production going up the curve until the peak which is the point in which we will have used half of our acquirable reserves. That point is believed to have come and gone and now we are on the down slope of the curve. The reality is we cannot simply use as much oil as we want at a constant low price. In other words hit the peak and ride it off a cliff. You have to go down the curve where production slows down with consumption and scarcity alone increases the price. This theory doesn’t take capitalists off the hook for reaping excessive profits on either side of the curve but rather gives a logical explanation for the life-span of a fossil fuel resource.

Ultimately you the consumer, the voter, and the citizen of Earth are responsible.  Oil is not evil and provides a great number of uses worthy of its preservation: medical products, diapers, and manufacturing and production enterprises are a few examples requiring oil. What doesn’t need oil, and hasn’t for some time now, is cars. Americans use 378 million gallons of motor gasoline each day which is 47% of the total oil consumption. There are over 256 million “highway” registered vehicles in the U.S. alone according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.  There is anywhere between 750 million and 1 billion vehicles worldwide. It will take a number of years to replace them with electric cars. The same electric car that we’ve had the technology to employ for several decades and existed in the thousands over a decade ago that are almost non-existent now. The time to be entirely satisfied with hybrids, increased domestic drilling, and rhetoric has passed. The oil industry, auto industry, and Washington will not change until it’s too late and at that time those who will suffer most are the poor and middle (perhaps what’s left of it) classes. The already wealthy tycoons and investor will just move on after a small hiccup as they are currently already diversifying away from oil. What isn’t a valid excuse is that we “didn’t know.” Stop arguing; stop complaining and start demanding for your own interest, an electric car, for example, today. We’ll have to deal with coal and natural gas at some point as well. The title “Euler’s [pronounced Oiler] Gone” was an intentional pseudo-double entendre, and if you are familiar with the great mathematician you would know he could easily solve a mathematical problem of this simplicity.