It sounds like crazy talk to many, but could Americans love affair with cheap oil be a cause behind oil company shortcuts and accidents? Its no secret that some Americans believe it their right to have cheap energy, something I'm reminded of daily when I see comments on Gasbuddy's Facebook page that imply that some people think gasoline prices shouldn't be over $1.
Are oil companies, such as BP, ExxonMobil, and others facing such pressure to keep prices as low as possible (from politicians, from motorists, from organizations) that they are cutting corners in an attempt to pass savings on to motorists? Is that why politicians have let oil companies virtually self regulate? To keep operating costs as low as possible to pass the savings on to furious motorists? Ponder that.
The pressure of some Americans seeking virtually free gasoline may be a part in oil companies cost-cutting and taking shortcuts. BP's track record is pretty rough. From its Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 to its leaky, corroding pipelines in Prudhoe Bay. From rusty oil storage tanks that I see each time I drive to Chicago, to infrastructure that needs repair... why are oil companies so "dirty"? No matter what oil prices are, many Americans say that the oil companies are villains. Politicians point fingers at them in election years or when prices are high, motorists point at them seemingly all the time, even when prices averaged $1.60 around Christmas in 2008.
Cheap oil might as well be in our constitution. It's been virtually guaranteed our right by actions in the past, but I think its finally caught up to us. There's a saying that many of you know- you can't have your cake and eat it, too.
With cheap oil and gasoline prices comes the bad- environmental disasters. In an attempt to keep prices low and politicians, motorists, and everyone else happy, oil companies have cut corners, enjoyed self regulation, and lax government policies. This has played a major role in the largest oil spill here in the U.S.- lax rules and regulations have existed because everyone wanted cheap oil. Not that I can blame people that did, after all, was anyone volunteering to pay $4 in late 2008 when prices hit $1.60?
Be prepared, folks. Don't even mention gasoline prices under $2. To me, the people who demand gas for such a price are the people who have lost touch. Gasoline prices were $1 or so back in the 90's. Meanwhile, the price of everything else has risen, so is it that hard to understand that the price of doing business has gone up, and thus gasoline prices?
If you want cheap gasoline prices, you'll force companies to cut corners. There's no magical answer. The downside is that you'll eventually have a disaster like we're having now.
If you want to avoid disaster, have your politicians regulate oil companies more. But be prepared- the price of oil will rise as the cost of business rises and oil companies must follow new directions. The cost of making wells, pumping, transporting, refining, and delivering will all go up as government regulates more, but the plus side is that the risk of disaster drops.
So, knowing you can't have your cake and eat it too, what would you rather see? Oily beaches, Americans seafood workers unemployed, lost tourism, or would you rather pay $3 for gas, and have none of the above issues? While higher prices don't guarantee an accident, I can bet from here on out that additional regulation and process will all but eliminate that chance.