Sunday, September 18, 2005

Petrol, Petrol, everywhere; wait....where'd it go?

Presumably some of you would have a recieved an email along the lines of this one by now

It has been calculated that if everyone in Australia did not purchase a
drop of petrol for one day and all at the same time, the oil companies
would choke on their stockpiles.

Including "calculated figures" (by who? with what assumptions?) the email claims that such an action would result in a "4.6 billion dollar loss to the industry". It proposes various dates for this consumer action to take place.

Hmmm, let's have a think about this one, shall we? I don't know about the rest of you, but petrol isn't the sort of thing I buy on a daily basis. So either I put off buying petrol until this particular day, and then refuse to buy it on that day (absurd, isn't it) or I hope that by natural circumstance this is the only day of the week that I have to buy petrol and thereby am able to accomplish the goal of the email.

Thinking a bit harder about this proposal, perhaps we should look at why petrol prices are so high at the moment. Price gouging by oil companies? That's very possible - but let's not forget that the Singapore Tapis price of petrol (that is, the price of oil purchased by Australian oil companies) is at historically high levels. So petrol is actually costing more to get to the consumer, and given the steady reduction in oil supplies, petrol is going to start costing more, period. So either we stop using it so much (which is what the proposal suggests, although in a rather roundabout way) or we find a way to not have to use so much of it. Maybe what the email should propose is that we all contact our local and state members and lobby them to remove the tariff subsidy on 4WD vehicles which have some of the lowest fuel economy ratings going, or the email could advocate that the government invest more in hybrid vehicle development.

Not buying petrol for one day might be a good idea in principle, but it only looks at the symptoms, not the disease. The disease is our reliance on oil for energy, and high prices is only one of the problems we're going to have.

*An enlightened friend of mine has added that it doesn't matter if we don't buy the petrol, but that we don't use it. And that you will need to buy more of it the day after because your consumption habits haven't changed. Couldn't agree more.


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