No it isn’t…
In fact, we get our gas on the cheap. If one were to travel to Europe, they pay double the rate we pay here. In countries such as Italy, Norway and The Netherlands, they pay as much as $6.49*. Gas there is taxed heavily, often taking up about %75 percent of the costs. One of the reasons why some countries pay more than other’s depends a lot on government policy. Other countries such as in Latin America and the Middle East have much cheaper prices for gas, but it’s all government controlled.
Remember back 10 years ago before 9/11 when gas was about $1.59? Remember when $10 got you a little over half a tank a gas that lasted about a week? Those were the good ole’ days, but I highly doubt we’ll ever see those again. Back in 2008 gas got up to as much as over $5 dollars in some states as California and Hawaii and $4.89 here in parts of Maryland. So why are gas prices so high? There are a number of factors, one being high crude oil prices. On the news, you’ll often hear about the price of crude oil rising. That’s the stuf we get our gas from. Crude oil accounts for about %55 of our gas, the other %45 come from taxes and distribution. It has now risen to about $99 dollars a barrel. We were at over $100 a barrel during the Iraq War and during the Summer of 2008 and 2009 to about as much as $145** a barrel. To put it in basic economic terms, oil prices go up when demand is higher than supply. They also are expected to rise during the summer when people tend to drive more.
Another reason why they tend to rise is because of commodities traders speculating on oil futures contracts. What is a commodity trader you ask? All they do is buy or sell contracts and assets such as oil, agriculture, livestock, bonds, or gold and trade them in an open market and guess what the prices will be. They then lock in those prices and deliver those goods in the future. In this case, oil prices change daily and are affected by investors who trade on what the price of oil should be in the future and assume risk. When the price of oil will go up, investors bid higher and the price of oil rises higher. They even drive up the price of oil when supply is high and demand is low. Sounds to me like they’re playing a game of craps with gas prices. For those of you well versed in the financial meltdown of 2008, this is something similar.
Oil prices also rise due to unrest in oil-producing countries, concern for pressure from countries such as China and India to meet demand and the declining dollar. The middle East has erupted into turmoil lately, due to political unrest. But in countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, where most of the uprisings have occurred, they only account for about %2 of oil exports. The US actually get’s most of its imported oil from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Mexico. The dollar has been on the decline for the past 6 years and oil is traded in dollars.
The law of supply and demand tells us that prices rise when demand is high and supply is low and prices fall when demand is low and supply is high. Usually during the fall, gas prices tend to drop because demand is low. But during the summers of 2008 and 2009, the price of oil was at an all time high even during the recession. How the hell did that happen? Commodity traders driving up the price. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Dan Gilligan, President of Petroleum Marketers Association, notes that prices were driven, not because of the recession, but by speculators. “Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the oil contracts in the futures markets are now held by speculative entities. Not by companies that need oil, not by the airlines, not by the oil companies. But by investors that are looking to make money from their speculative positions,” Gilligan explained. But while being questioned in front of congress, Lawrence Eagles, banker at JP Morgan, said this, “We believe that high energy prices are fundamentally a result of supply and demand,” So wouldn’t this go completely against the law of supply and demand? And how is it that the only people who seem to benefit from this are investors and oil companies that tell us that the reason oil prices are high is because of supply and demand? Or political upheavals? Or hell, the BP oil spill? How convenient that now that we have the Middle East popping off, that gas prices, and with everything else such as food, goes up even though supply and demand may suggest that it has nothing to do with it. Remember this guy? He made off with a $400 million dollar retirement package when gas was at an all time high due to “supply and demand”.
IMHO, markets are not always driven by fear, but by greedy motherfuckers. I believe that the high price of oil is driven by speculators running a craps show on the market. And they are piss poor middlemen too. So what can we do? Not really a damn thing. We could drive less, but products made from plastics and other everyday materials come from oil, so a gasoline boycott wouldn’t really put much of a dent. But it can help us environmentally. Commodities markets such as this, should be regulated and I will update any information in the Energy Plan Post. This thing doesn’t pass the smell test and I could be wrong, but if anyone has a different opinion then me, Please feel free to leave a non-asshole-ish comment below explaining commodities trading and bubbles.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
So it’s black history month and this blog will honor those spoken, and unspoken heroes of the green and natural movement by making this place a better place for us all. So who better to honor than of course, our First Lady, Michelle Obama with her Let’s Move! campaign. She has been on the talk show circuit all this week celebrating the 1st anniversary commemorating Let’s Move to end childhood obesity. First I wanna say that I appreciate the FL taking the initiative on this issue and allowing us to have this conversation about the choices we make when it comes to our food and having healthier habits. So far, Lets Move! is already in its first year with its first legislative victory, The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act 2010 under its belt. Also, the FL has done something unprecedented by teaming up with Wal-Mart to provide better access to fresh and organic produce and cutting back on the salt and sugar in their products.
So what is Lets Move!? It is a campaign headed by the FL to help end childhood obesity in a generation. Its main strategic goals are to increase access to healthy food and making it affordable, give parents the right tools and guides for them to make informed decisions, increase physical activity, and to provide healthy food in our schools. Over the past 30 years, Childhood obesity has tripled. In fact, almost one in every 3 children are overweight or obese. According to www.letsmove.gov , if something is not done to combat this problem, one-third of all our children born after 2000 will experience diabetes, heart disease, and asthma at some point in their lifetimes. That’s a pretty alarming statistic. Also, kids today are not getting enough excercise. The average child spends about 7.5 hours in front of a television, computer, or playing video games. I know I came up during the era of Atari, Nintendo, and Sega Genesis, but back when I was a kid, all we did was play outside, especially during the summertime or after homework was done. All we played was touch football in the street, double dutch, jump rope, and trying to out race each other up and down the street. All the while burning off those calories and sugar from now laters, freezee pops, and hug juices. I feel like an old lady now, but darn it, kids these days don’t know how to play. I watched the FL hoola hoop on the WH lawn about a year or so ago and it made me think 1. What FL did I know that hoola hooped and did this and 2. It really is kinda sad that kids today don’t get enough physical activity that existed when I was a kid. I really commend the FL for taking this step forward to promote exercise and healthy eating habits. But I digress…
The rest of the website gives parents the tools and information they need to make an informed decision about their eating choices. As parents sometimes it’s just easier to go for prepared meals or take out because we don’t always have time to cook. Then there are those like myself who are not home during dinnertime to know exactly what their child is eating. They also give facts and links from the CDC and you can even calculate your child’s Body Mass Index(BMI). The FL has aligned herself with such groups as the American Academy of Pediatrics and has created Chefs Move to Schools program to have chefs come to create a menu plan with the schools.
Michelle Obama even helped create the first White House Garden with the help of some local school children. There, vegetables and herbs, such as ButterHead lettuce, broccoli and thyme are grown as well as sweet potatoes and a beehive for honey. The White House has used these in many state dinners and other functions and have donated them to local charities and shelters. Schools have now gotten into the act by growing their own gardens to teach kids about sustainability and have direct access to fresh produce from local farms through the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 was signed into law on December 13th 2010. The act is a bipartisan law to revamp school lunches and increase access and availability to fresh produce, create new guidelines for school breakfast and lunch programs, and focus on reducing childhood obesity. It also makes schools accountable by requiring school districts to be audited every 3 years to meet compliance and properly train school food service personnel on identifying hazards and recall food items. The rest can be found here at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/13/president-obama-signs-healthy-hunger-free-kids-act-2010-law .
The FL has even chosen to align herself with the Sith. In January it was announced that she will team up with Wal-Mart to push for access to fresh and organic produce by dropping its prices and to push for its suppliers to cut back on salt, fats and sugar in their products. I know that people love to think of Wal-Mart at the Sith lord Darth Vader, but there is some good that can come out of this. For one Wal-Mart has vowed to lower prices on its produce and develop its own logo to recognize organic produce. They will also build more stores in undeserving communities, make thousands of its packaged food items that it sells more healthy and affordable by 2015, and increase charitable donations to nutritious programs. Another step that Wal-Mart has taken is to lower the costs of generic prescription drugs and eliminate waste from its store and to make their trucks more fuel-efficient. Ok, I shop at Wal-Mart from time to time because it’ just right across the street from where I work. I am certainly not a huge fan of the chain(abhor its anti-union stance, employment discrimination, and shitty customer service), but I do say that this is a positive step in the right direction for a corporation such as this to follow. I mean, isn’t this what we want them to do because it’s the ethical thing to do? And let’s be honest, corporations make money. They answer to their shareholders AND stakeholders so of course everyone is going to be affected by this. But for people to act as if Wal-Mart should not have anything to gain from this is really just nitpicking at best. The naysayers have already panned it and claims that the FL sold out on whatever made up principle they came up with. Because aligning yourself with Darth Vader instead of fighting a losing battle means you’ve sold out. No, complaining about a plan of action that you don’t know whether or not will work means you’ve sold out. It also mean, that you’re hating(Hi Hater!). A behemoth such as the eeeevil Wal-Mart is finally coming around and cutting back on sugar and salt but it’s bullshit because most of it will still be processed anyway. Of course they stand to lose from this by lowering the sugar and salt content from their packaged foods but at the same time, they gain a foothold in the marketplace by offering organic produce and other items. Bill Simon, Wal-Mart executive had this to say, “No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford. With more than 140 million customers a week, Wal-Mart is uniquely positioned to make a difference by making food healthier and more affordable to everyone.” They are the market leader to create a chain reaction for others to follow suit. As the saying goes, so goes Wal-Mart, so goes everyone else.
So I commend the FL and congratulate the success of Lets Move! so far and teaming up with Wal-Mart. They have identified over 70 strategies to implement and have helped push for legislation to get passed. They have had many to sing it’s praises from chefs such as Tom Colicchio and Cat Cora, to politicians such as US Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), and food advocacy groups such as Think Food Group. They have even hooked up with partners such as the NFL and the culinary community. Do I know that Wal-Mart will not try to screw us over? Who knows. Again, I’m not panning this idea just yet, but it was just announced about 2 weeks ago so for me to say it’s a winner/loser is a little early. But I do want to say that I am glad that a major corporation such as this has taken this step forward for the better. So here’s to you First Lady Michelle Obama.
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This is not a new blog topic per se, but I wanted to post this link I saw on WEE SEE YOU that outlines the epidemic of obesity in the African-American Community and how fast food companies are running the gamut of “super sizing’ it’s customer’s by not offering any healthy choices. The strategically place their restaurants near schools and in low-income communities because for them, they generate huge profits while at the same time, making us sick. My hope is that people really stop eating this stuf or at least cut back on it dramatically, but we don’t live in an idealistic world. Here’s the paradox; blacks are McDonalds’ #1 customer base; they employ thousands and 1 out of 8 Americans have worked there or at other fast food joints. According to the article, they helped create hundreds of black millionaires and have performed charity work such as through the Ronald McDonald Foundation, sponsored sports events, and have even become environmentally responsible by using renewable packaging in 82% of it’s consumer products. I feel like they are the neighborhood drug dealer that sells us crack but uses that money to build up the community. The article not only talks about fast food, but how there are a lack of healthier choices in low-income communities and the choices are getting slimmer and slimmer as supermarkets venture out to the suburbs. Here’s the article http://atlantapost.com/2011/01/31/how-fast-food-companies-%E2%80%9Csuper-size%E2%80%9D-african-americans/Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This morning as I was driving to work, I heard an ad about the Baltimore Bottle tax. It’s been getting non-stop radio play, especially on black radio, about stopping the bottle tax because of the strain it would put on “working families” i.e., poor people, the hood, low income residents and other colorful codenames used to describe black people. In it, the announcer spoke of how unfair it was for the poor to bear the burden of the bottle tax. I thought to myself, man, those bottle lobbyist are real good! Getting people worked up over 4 measly cents that they won’t miss anyway, makes me feel like i’m contributing to something right?
Actually, the Bottle Tax was proposed by the current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to help balance the budget. This would raise $11 million dollars and help keep firefighters, the police, summer programs and recreational parks open. It exempts economy sized drinks such as 2 liter bottles and milk and juice. See, every little bit helps. She’s also proposing a energy tax that would add 60 cents a month to your bill and a phone tax adding 50 cents. But if you heard what I hear on the radio constantly as well as seen ads on televison, one would think that the opposition was strongly against it. Actually, not even close. The I-team(wbaltv) conducted an unscientific survey of about 503 Baltimore residents and found that 59% found the tax acceptable while 37% found it unacceptable. The city council, including council president Jack Young, shelved the proposal and came up with their own proposal. Theirs include a tax on billboard advertising, raising parking meters to $2 and hour, and an increase in the license fee forcompanies that have video poker machines that could bring in $5 million in revenue. It may or may not work. I know for certain that I will not be paying $2 an hour just to park downtown for 30 minutes. Some business owners have even griped that it would hurt their business so much that folks would go rather go out to the county to purchase bottled drinks than in the city. In DC, they have a similiar proposal, but for a 1-cent per ounce tax on soda. And it too has received vocal opposition from local restaurants and businesses. But it’s on soda people!??!!! You know, the stuf that’s loaded with sugar, that will make you gain weight and cause health problems down the road? The one where it’s bottles are always littered in the streets and fill up our landfills because they are not biodegradeable??
This has more to do with our priorities for the moment than who’s gonna be hurt the most. I’d rather pay the 4 extra cents on drinks that are probably not good for me anyway to have an extra cop on my block. Or to have somewhere my daughter can be able to play. Or to not see bottles floating in the Inner Harbor. You know, important stuf. Since when did public safety become about maintaing your bottome line? Here’s a dose of reality to the city council and the other businesses and entities opposed to the bottle tax..10 PEOPLE WERE MURDERED OVER A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. It sure would be nice to have that cop walking my block or that fireman putting out that fire next door. Other states such as Maine, California and Hawaii have a 5 cent tax on all bottled drinks. This would seem like a small step for individuals to become a little more involved. Unfortunately the tax was voted down by city council. But at least I don’t have to pay 4 cents on my $1.79 pepsi. YAY!
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