We’re paying for decades of energy neglect

South Kitsap residents, like people all over the country, figure to do a lot fuming and very little traveling this summer in the wake of the latest round of gas shortages and resulting price hikes.

When looking for a convenient scapegoat, many will train their anger on the big, impersonal oil companies. To do so, they’ll need to disregard a recent report showing that nine separate congressional investigations dating back to the Nixon administration have uncovered no evidence of price-gouging or collusion, and that oil company profits — over the long term — have been about average or below average compared with the rest of the U.S. economy.

First and foremost, price is always a function of supply and demand. Presidents, governors, Congresses and legislatures can do many things, but they do not have the power to repeal the laws of economics with the stroke of a pen.

In this case, the worldwide demand for fuel is skyrocketing as industries in former Third World countries like China and India make up for decades of lost time.

Meanwhile, supplies are depleted — or at least threatened — by instability in the Middle East, the chief cause of which being a belligerent and dangerous regime in Iran.

For its part, the U.S. has done little or nothing over the years to prevent such a crisis, as hard-line environmentalists have successfully halted any new off-shore drilling and refinery capacity has remained at the same level for decades.

Here at home, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (who, helpfully, is up for re-election in November) both voted as recently as last year to continue ignoring the problem by blocking drilling on a miniscule corner of Alaska’s vast Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

So here we are, reaping the benefits of a 30-year policy of kicking the can down the road and letting someone else worry about the big problems.

Other than demogoguing the issue for political effect, there really isn’t a great deal politicians can do about things in the short run. But if the next few difficult months force us to confront some harsh realities about the longer term — and the leaders we need to get us where we need to go — perhaps some good will have come of all of this.

In the meantime, sit back and think of all those caribou in Alaska frollicking on a million barrels of oil a day. There, doesn’t that make you feel a little better?

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