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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Rethinking the situation....

I am not one given to panic when reading some of the many doomsday scenarios put out on a regular basis by authors and publishers seeking to make a fast buck by playing on the fears of the general public -- especially those which rely on conspiracy theories. Hell, despite feeling really, really down about recent events in American politics, I have retained some sense that we are not facing the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. Call me foolhardy -- but more appropriately, call me sceptical....

But I have to admit that I am starting to get a bit nervous about things taking place in the oil fields and at the pumps. I guess it started when I got home from Northern Ireland in June and faced the propsect of paying more than $2 a gallon for "petro" on a regular basis. In the past I'd regarded such prices as temporary at best, although I had resigned myself to the belief that the price per gallon will slowly increase overtime a cent or two every few months. The fact that my friends in the UK were already use to paying the equivalent of $4-5 per gallon also provided some solice. Hell, if they could live with it, so can we. It will just take time to adapt....

More recently, however, my remaining optimism (if you can call it that) about the incremental pace of oil price changes (and out capcity to adapt) has been put to the test. First came the reality of the price changes. Over the past two months (in which I have been doing a good deal of commuting to work by car), we have seen the price of petro go up(often by leaps and bounds) at least 40-60 cents a gallon. (Some perspective: Today's posted price at the pump is 2.63 for regular -- 87 octane -- at a reasonably priced station in Massachusetts. When I was back in the states in the spring it was in the 1.80-1.90 range.) Some analysts are saying things will return to a "normal" level after Labor Day (early September in the US), but what "normal" is has not been made clear.

The bigger hit came in today's NY Times, where Peter Maass provides a Sunday Magazine article that offers a pretty convincing analysis that all but undermines any remaining hope for avoiding a big shock in the future. It is beginning to look an awful lot like the 1970s....

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