I was pondering the other day, in the midst of the contraception hullabaloo in our Nation’s Capitol, and realized after a couple of hours of MSNBC news that this week’s issue is energy policy, rather than contraception.
Before we leave the issue, though, one odd footnote to the issue of contraception was the unbelievably bumbling effort of the Virginia legislature to enact a law requiring women to subject themselves to an invasive medical procedure as part of the “informed consent” process before being permitted to obtain a surgical abortion. That is, Virginia’s legislature actually introduced, and its Senate passed a bill requiring any woman seeking an abortion first to undergo an involuntary transvaginal ultrasound (an ultrasound probe is introduced into the woman’s uterus via vaginal penetration so that the doctor can force the woman to view ultrasound images of the wiggling fetus inside her womb AT THE WOMAN’S EXPENSE. The Commonwealth’s Governor Robert F. McDonnell promised to sign the measure into law , before being pummeled into a hasty and ham-handed retreat by his (especially his former female) constituency in the Old Dominion. Former (let me be the first to say) Governor McDonnell will be lucky to escape his term with both testicles intact, at this rate. Governor McDonnell really wanted to force women to undergo vaginal penetration against her will as the Commonwealth’s “special” tax on a woman’s right to control her own womb. Maybe the Guv’nors adoring wife will do us a favor and suffocate him in his sleep – there’s no help for someone that craven. So, helluva week in the Old Dominion, at least for women of childbearing years.
But I digress. Energy — Doesn’t the price of precious gasoline depend on a balance between relative demand/consumption, and supply? It should. In a perfect system. But supply doesn’t just mean oil supply, it includes gasoline supply too, which comes from refining crude oil, which depends on refining capacity, which is inadequate in the United States because we are wanting for new refineries to make enough gas to meet demand/consumption. We also have a speculative commodity market in oil that prices crude oil largely on computerized quantitative analysis/futures trading models, with little regard to the supply-demand equation.
As to refineries, no new refinery has been built in the US in years, because they are heavily regulated, dangerous and environmentally damaging facilities that private industry has apparently decided are not worth the first few years of unprofitability, especially when the higher gas prices caused by a shortage of refining capacity create bigger profits for the big oil companies.
Doesn’t this point to a no-brainer solution of our government simply building a few state of the art refineries in strategic locations in the name of national security and a stable supply? If a private builder can’t stomach the environmental regulation, initial startup cost and lengthy permitting and approval process for a new refinery, doesn’t that cry out for the government to build it and operate it on condemned wastelands within 100 miles of a pipeline, rail or deepwater port?
The oil companies could not claim that this “government takeover of our refining capacity” creates a non-competitive environment when the companies themselves have thrown in the towel on investing in a network of refineries that could meet present and future needs, citing the high startup costs as non-starters. Hit me up if you have a better idea.