If we’re driving less, and Indonesia’s driving more, how long before the polar bears bite the dust?

July 29, 2008

The results are in, everybody, and it looks like Americans are driving less, or so says the U.S. Department of Transportation. Gaze upon the visual, via the Daily Score:

Zounds. Looks like a mileage downturn to me. Of course, as a country, we’re still hogging loads of fossil fuels to power our vehicles. But, according to yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, we’re not the only ones vying for oil. Nations around the world, from Mexico to Indonesia, are jockeying for petrol position, too — and they’re offering government subsidies that don’t squelch demand.

The oil company BP, known for thorough statistical analysis of energy markets, estimates that countries with subsidies accounted for 96 percent of the world’s increase in oil use last year — growth that has helped drive prices to record levels.

In most countries that do not subsidize fuel, high prices have caused oil demand to stagnate or fall, as economic theory says they should. But in countries with subsidies, demand is still rising steeply, threatening to outstrip the growth in global supplies.

While I understand that oil subsidies aren’t wholly good — especially in global terms — they do make it feasible for residents of non-G8 countries keep on truckin’ (literally). If consumers in those economies have to pay the true cost of oil, rather than the reduced cost made possible through subsidies, whole swaths of those populations could very well snap under the financial strain.

Then again, if these subsidies are upheld and demand for cheap oil continues to rise, we might be in an even bigger environmental pickle, one fraught with oil wars (something this country knows nothing about as yet) and rusted-out SUV chassis and, most likely, Texas Tea Zombies or some other type of pre-apocalyptic menace.

Of course, this could be a sinister blame-game, as it were; if we can create Huns out of Indonesian freighter captains who use barrels of subsidized diesel at a go, maybe we’ll be able to mobilize against said freighter captains in a future conflict over the last remaining gobs of crude. Maybe we can even send the Texas Tea Zombies to the front. They don’t stop for anything, I’m told.

What’s the solution?

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