OPEC or the American Way of Life?

He was the adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior, and we wonder, really, what kind of advice he could give them?

If we judge by his June 20th article in the International Herald Tribune, Thomas W. Evans has absurd ideas, and the advice he gave to his former employers shouldn’t be mind-blowing. The former senior official proposed to bring the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to justice as an “illegal cartel,” whose “behavior is destructive.” Thomas Evans accuses OPEC of having “pushed up the price of a barrel beyond $130.” He will be even more furious now, because barrel prices will soon pass $150, and no one will be surprised if they reach 200 dollars during the coming winter.

We remain stunned in the face of the extraordinary inability of American officials, past and present, to engage in introspection and think about their own responsibility. After seven and a half years of chaotic presidency, the current American president has not recognized even one of his countless errors in domestic or foreign policy, and has not once asked for forgiveness for the terrifying suffering endured by millions of people. Thomas Evans preaches the disastrous neoconservative belief that America is an edifying force whose mission is to combat the evil of others. For him, things are very simple: the American citizens were living quiet and happy at the wheel of their big engines or 4x4s, and gas cost an insignificant dollar per gallon (3.7 liters); until the day when the “destructive behavior” of OPEC forced them to pay more than $4/gallon. (It is worth noting here that gas cost $1.25/gallon just before the U.S invasion of Iraq.) The neoconservatives will probably stop short of asking the relevant and legitimate question: what if it was the American citizens and not OPEC who initiated the “destructive behavior? The former Reagan adviser did not cite a single argument to support his accusations against OPEC because he has none. He ignores that “the oil cartel” is overtaken by soaring demand for oil, and that the USA, at only 3% of the world population, consumes 25% of the global production. Decades of wasting energy and large-scale environmental pollution have become two main elements of the American way of life. The American citizen has almost never been content to use just the energy required for the normal functioning of industry, agriculture or travel. Much of the energy is used to satisfy that inflated ego that drives American citizens to endlessly seek thrills and intoxication at the expense of non-renewable energy reserves and the environment.

Just like the U.S. federal government needs to feel powerful and show off, American citizens want to give an impression of power to themselves and others. Hence the propensity to buy big, gas-guzzling, polluting cars. The American automobile industry bears a large part of the blame as well. It exploited this American need to show off by providing increasingly large cars, bringing a curse upon energy efficiency and environmentalism. General Motors went so far as to build a civilian version of military equipment – the infamous Hummer – with gas consumption closer than that of a tank than a normal car. The obvious question, which Mr. Evans seems oblivious to, is who takes responsibility for the rise in oil prices: OPEC, or the fundamentally wasteful American way of life? They sell a particular product whose price depends not only on the usual mechanism of supply and demand, which regulates the market, but also especially political uncertainties, which continuously affect international relations.

Mr. Evans also omits one of the main reasons for the dizzying rise in the price of a barrel – the destructive behavior of American, European and Asian speculators putting an unbearable pressure on the demand in order to raise prices and reap gains. Not to mention the increased demand from the extraordinary development of the Chinese and Indian economies. All these reasons, which are at the heart of the current oil crisis, slip by Mr. Evans, who only sees an “illegal cartel conspiracy”.

Thomas Evans longs to see OPEC destroyed. He started his article with this astounding sentence: “The President of the USA has the power to attack and even destroy OPEC.” He concluded his article a little less aggressively by drawing attention to the anti-trust laws that the U.S. proposes to dust off in order for American courts to try OPEC.

What’s more absurd and more arrogant than to try an organization of sovereign nations under American laws over the oil price increases when the responsibility lies primarily with the USA as the worst energy waster on the planet? When one combines this absurd demand with the refusal to deliver the Blackwater criminals to the Iraqi justice system for the massacre of Iraqi civilians, for example, we can take full measure of the destruction that these neoconservatives continue to wreak on their country’s reputation.

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