Two summers ago, I made a step toward the dark side by trading in my bicycle for a shiny new SUV. I couldn’t have timed the switch more poorly. This was the first summer of record setting gas prices, when the pump price first climbed over $3.00 a gallon. Fair weather activists went to work that summer, sending out chain letters over email and myspace demanding a boycott of gasoline. Let’s boycott all gas stations for a day! Or better yet, let’s just boycott Exxon! That’ll show ’em!

After reading these, I (and anyone who had taken Econ 101) immediately were hit with terrible headaches. Why? These consumer gas schemes pandered more toward emotions than to any rational economics theory.

Now two years later, a similar situation is occurring. However, this headache isn’t being spread by zealous internet users. This fire is being fanned by two of our own presidential candidates. Their idea is not a boycott, but rather a “gas holiday” where the federal gas tax is erased for the summer driving months.

But wouldn’t lowering the gas price increase demand? And when demand increases, won’t the prices go back up? The short answer is Yes. Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes this as the true American energy policy: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Under such a scheme, consumers would see little change in gas prices this summer. Without taxes of course, our own Federal government’s revenue would shrink. And the real winners in the game would be….you guessed it….the big oil companies.

According to this article by Thomas Friedman of the NYT, “This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.”

Paul Krugman, another NYT columnist points out in a post that any attempt to quell gas prices for the summer driving season is too little, too late. The petro we’ll use this summer has already been extracted and refined. No matter what politicians will promise for the summer, there’s simply not much to be done.

Photo found at Huffington Post

My car gets 14 mpg on a good day and public transit isn’t an option for my commute. I’m sitting front and center in the cross hairs of high gas prices, and I would be ecstatic if there were a plan that could help me out. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a rationale consensus from our leaders. Of the three candidates, only Obama has voiced his disapproval of a gas holiday. Both McCain and Clinton have publicly favored this gas-tax holiday.

It’s time for our politicians to take a proactive and logical approach to our energy policy. All the research, rationale, and logic point to the same conclusion. It’s been close to 30 years since President Jimmy Carter proclaimed we would stop being dependent on foreign oil and that we would develop oil alternatives. Perhaps its time we began working toward this long-time goal.

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Found at www.Filterwaterdirect.com

Today, you can own almost anything. Anything. You can own it. If you or I were to talk with our great-great grandparents, they wouldn’t believe just how much someone in today’s world can own.

I’m not speaking so much about material goods; so much as I’m speaking to the wide breadth of ownership we experience every day. It’s not just land and goods anymore. You can own ideas, pictures, slogans, and even living organisms.

This ability to own things is known as privatization. Privatization is the tool which makes capitalism work. It brought us out of the dark ages, and produced our world today. But is making things “ownable” always good for society?

Many people think so. Members of the Fraser Institute, are some of them. In the documentary “The Corporation”, the president of the free-market powerhouse tells us that if we could find a way to privatize our air, we wouldn’t have any more pollution. Just like when someone owns a house or a car, the air would become the owner’s responsibility. They would care for it, and see that it isn’t polluted. Seems like a good idea, right?

There’s another part of privatization that needs to be talked about. Owning a house for instance means I can put up a fence. I can keep people out. If I wanted to, I could even keep you out!


Image from the India Resource Center

Over the weekend, I caught a story about a company who put up a big fence. The story is about a village in India. The village’s water wells have been privatized, and are now owned by Coca Cola. Coca Cola uses the wells to supply water for its Dasani bottled water product, which is enjoyed by thirsty people all over the world. That is, it’s enjoyed by thirsty people who can afford to buy it.

It seems that no matter how thirsty the local villagers become, Coca Cola’s financial fence keeps them out. Can’t afford this water? Too bad! Villagers have taken up strong protests against the bottling company. Rioters broke down a police blockade and protested the factory in the hope of soon quenching their thirst.


This picture can be found at City of Tulsa Water ServicesA similar story took place in Bolivia back in 2001. Like many countries during that time, Bolivia was struggling to develop its economy. Just like anyone who’s starting to develop a business, Bolivia needed a loan. And so just like a businessman, Bolivia went to the bank….the World Bank. The World Bank agreed to loan Bolivia money, but there were a few conditions. These conditions were called “Structural Adjustment Policies”. The World Bank wanted to make sure it would get repaid, so it required Bolivia to privatize many of its state-run services. All of a sudden, everything in Bolivia was for sale! Roads, hospitals, energy…… and water.

Bechtel, a US company, was awarded the contract to manage the water in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city. As part of the contract, Bechtel was promised a certain return on its investment. That money had to come from somewhere, and so Bechtel raised the rates. Copies of water bills show that household water bills increased by 60%! Almost instantly, water began to cost a lot than most could afford. The strain was too much, the people rioted, and one boy was killed and hundreds others wounded.


Stories like these lead me to believe that privatization may not be the golden answer to all our problems. There are some basic necessities to human life that we simply cannot fence. What if being poor meant you couldn’t breathe because you couldn’t afford air? What if it meant you couldn’t drink because water was too expensive? And when it comes to health care, food, basic shelter…well the answer is hard to say. Privatization may have brought us out of the dark ages, but can it also put us back in?

Where do we draw the line?