The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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U.S. moving in wrong direction with oil dependence

Gas prices have been extremely high, and although we are all suffering the effects of this, I think it’s important to know that oil companies are heroically doing all they can to help alleviate the cost of gas so that we can all have a little relief in our thinly stretched pocket books.

While you are struggling to make ends meet and setting a record for personal debt, don’t be alarmed or angered by the fact that oil companies are turning massive, record-high profits in the multi-billions. They want you to know that they are merging themselves into even more over-sized, bloated conglomerates to make it easier for themselves to gouge prices, er, that is, to “find oil and natural gas supplies and ship them to needed markets around the globe,” according to an Associated Press article. Rest assured that their top priority is your well-being, oh overtaxed and strung-out commuter.

Big cheese executives from such corporations as ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips recently sat for a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend their mergers and massive profits, while senators pushed for legislation that would allow the government to go after them, and OPEC, for withholding supplies to boost prices.

Big oil countered this by telling Congress that if they want cheaper energy prices, they need to give them access to federally restricted lands and offshore waters for drilling. That’s right, oil companies are looking to endanger more species and habitats, and they need the help of Congress to do it. Without being allowed to do so, they will have to raise the price of gas more quickly than they otherwise would. Because we all know they will do it anyway, the only question is, how fast will they do it? I started driving at a time when you could get regular unleaded gas for 89 cents a gallon. Now, it’s unlikely that gas will ever cost less than $2 a gallon ever again.

The United States government has already demonstrated its inability to protect its constituent citizens from predatory big business. Who are they kidding? The top members of the presidential administration, including Bush himself, are big business moguls. Many people, myself included, are in fact convinced that big business, including big oil, have such a powerful sway in policy-making that their economic interests were a main motivation for instigating the war in Iraq.

If our elected officials were competently and genuinely working for the people that they supposedly represent, they wouldn’t be wrangling with oil companies over gas prices right now. Instead, they would have started developing and implementing a new, cleaner, more inexpensive form or renewable energy around 30 years ago, when it started becoming apparent that oil was dirty, costly, harmful and risky, and that the corporations that were responsible for providing it were (and are) less than noble.

The technology for such an alternative energy source is out there; it’s just un-funded and un-developed. The fact that Congress is still wresting with Big Oil over gas prices and compromising over providing drilling areas are nothing but a sign of their failure to serve the public and their dangerous susceptibility to lobbyists and the almighty dollar.

We consumers are not really helping much either. In fact, we are doing a catastrophic disservice to ourselves and generations to come with our purchasing patterns. More and more of us are flocking to auto dealers and buying gas-guzzling SUVs with 60 gallon tanks. Our social conscientiousness has given way to our willingness and desire to be swept along with illogical and ultimately destructive trends. If you drive an SUV, I hope you are a working forest ranger, and if you drive a Hummer, I hope you are an on-duty member of the military.

Because by buying such vehicles to drive on nice, paved city streets and freeways to work, school or the grocery store rather than driving through the rough, hostile terrains that these vehicles were originally intended for, we are sending a signal to both auto makers and our legislators that cleaner, more efficient cars are not that important to us, and that we are willing to pay high prices for gasoline in order to ride in style.

As long as we are sending these messages, it seems unlikely that either Congress or the auto industry will feel any urgent need to make the moves necessary toward creating a cleaner, less oil-dependent environment.

So while our national and state leaders hold some blame for not playing the role of care-takers and protectors as they were intended to, and standing up to big business and lobbyists, we are responsible for failing to demand better from them. As for big oil, they’re just jerks. But we are letting them be influential jerks, and that needs to end.

Bethania Palma can be reached at

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