[Marxism] Why High Gas Prices Are Here to Stay

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 13 11:19:48 MDT 2012

Counterpunch March 13, 2012
A Tough-Oil World
Why High Gas Prices Are Here to Stay

Oil prices are now higher than they have ever been — except for a 
few frenzied moments before the global economic meltdown of 2008. 
Many immediate factors are contributing to this surge, including 
Iran’s threats to block oil shipping in the Persian Gulf, fears of 
a new Middle Eastern war, and turmoil in energy-rich Nigeria. Some 
of these pressures could ease in the months ahead, providing 
temporary relief at the gas pump.  But the principal cause of 
higher prices — a fundamental shift in the structure of the oil 
industry — cannot be reversed, and so oil prices are destined to 
remain high for a long time to come.

In energy terms, we are now entering a world whose grim nature has 
yet to be fully grasped.  This pivotal shift has been brought 
about by the disappearance of relatively accessible and 
inexpensive petroleum — “easy oil,” in the parlance of industry 
analysts; in other words, the kind of oil that powered a 
staggering expansion of global wealth over the past 65 years and 
the creation of endless car-oriented suburban communities. This 
oil is now nearly gone.

The world still harbors large reserves of petroleum, but these are 
of the hard-to-reach, hard-to-refine, “tough oil” variety. From 
now on, every barrel we consume will be more costly to extract, 
more costly to refine — and so more expensive at the gas pump.


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