Waging War On Fossil Fuels Enflames Inflation
When you pull aside the curtain of its moral pretensions, the green movement of global warming fanatics is just another socialist scheme to replace the free enterprise’s real-world judgment of how to navigate the economic long term with coerced, illegitimately law-enforced faith in government control.
There is one preeminent tool that players in the economy—meaning all of us—use to transact honestly and productively with one another: price. And today we face a price crisis.
The global price of oil has skyrocketed thanks to the massive government spending of one-party rule by Democrats for more than a year now, cowardice on the part of the Federal Reserve, and all of this exacerbated in recent weeks by Russian aggression in the Ukraine induced by President Joe Biden’s weakness in failing to project American power, especially the debacle of the Afghanistan pullout.
But oil equals transportation, and the fact that everything else that is bought and sold—whether consumed, worn, slept or sat on, washed with, worked with, played with, or used as a means of transportation itself—must be delivered from producer to seller to buyer, means no escaping a widely dispersed ripple effect. When the cost of moving people and things rises, ineludibly the price of everything rises.
Rents are currently rising at nearly 5 percent, the worst in over 30 years. Meat, appliances, furniture, buying or renting cars, and staying at a hotel were all up by double digits over 12 months toward the close of last year, months before the oil shock from the war on Ukraine. That 12-month period saw gas go up by over 50 percent.
The higher gas prices reach, the better, according to the left. Clinton administration economist Jeffrey Frankel wrote last year, “On one hand, the effect of high oil, gas, and coal prices on consumers is good for the environment, because they discourage demand for fossil fuels.” He added that, on the other hand, high fossil fuel prices also encourage fossil fuel supply—though he noted that the consequent private investment in the sector has proved to be weaker than expected.
In 2019, energy research firm Wood Mackenzie analyzed the objectives of the left’s war on oil. The various high-minded schemes for weaning America off fossil fuels have been estimated to cost between $1.7 trillion for the Biden plan seeking zero emissions, $5 trillion for Texas Democrat gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s proposal, and $10 trillion for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.
This extreme political agenda is a war on the freedom to set prices. It is the equivalent of stormtroopers marching into your supermarket and removing from the shelves the offerings they don’t want you to be free to buy, based on ideological criteria. Maybe it’s Bayer aspirin they hate, or Tropicana orange juice. That less choice will mean higher prices because consumers are captive to a reduction of competitive alternatives.
Energy is the same. When the market is deprived of the full range of competitive options, sellers can get more than they rightfully should. It amounts to government-sanctioned price gouging. Optimum competition, on the other hand, reduces price. Domestic oil from the Permian Basin or Alaska, which has fewer miles to travel to the refinery and pump and thus ends up costing much less, can compete seriously with oil originating in the Middle East; the purchaser of a car today is likely to choose a gasoline-powered Toyota RAV-4 or Honda CR-V for under $30,000 rather than an electric Tesla costing over $60,000. But when the government abolishes fossil fuel vehicles altogether, cars themselves may no longer be within reach, which is what the left has long desired: a populace forced to use and love communal public transport, happy sardines stuffed into buses and subways.
As grossly underappreciated as it is by all too many consumers, price is the indispensable means through which a free economy operates. In a sense, the freedom to set prices is economic freedom. It is the manner in which shortages of essential commodities are averted. It is the way that the value of resources is communicated accurately to the public at large. It is how buyers differentiate between what they need versus the purchases that can wait, depending on changing economic conditions. Anything less than freedom in pricing attaches artificial, inaccurate value to goods and services.
Prices freely agreed upon by buyer and seller is the only way that resources can be allocated efficiently, a task beyond the ability of any central planner. And far from merely being the difference between comfort and hardship, price in the course of history has meant the difference between life and death, on a massive scale.
Remember the famine in Ethiopia that saw the world force fed with the moral outrage of our leading rock stars? Was that the world’s rich starving the world’s poor? Far from it. As Oklahoma State University political science professor Theodore M. Vestal wrote in July, 1985—the month of the Live Aid concert to raise money for relief of the Ethiopian famine—Ethiopia’s government under its military junta “made farmers accept artificially low prices for the main grains: teff, sorghum, barley, millet, wheat and maize.” Coffee was “so heavily taxed that peasants do not bother to expand its production. These policies destroyed the incentive of millions of peasants to grow surplus food, and productivity has declined notably.”
How about Stalin’s engineered famine of the early 1930s in Ukraine, one of Europe’s most fertile agricultural regions? As documented by Anne Applebaum in her 2017 book “Red Famine,” that genocide—a precursor to Russia’s current deliberate slaughter of innocent Ukrainian civilians—came after coerced collectivization in which Ukrainian farmers were forced to sell to the Soviet government at non-negotiable, extremely low artificial prices. In other words, stealing.
No doubt voters will hold Democrats responsible for today’s sky-high inflation in the November midterm elections this year. What too few realize, however, is that dramatically higher prices are not the unintentional result of mismanagement and incompetence; they are the expected, desired results of the Democrats’ game plan. And if they get the green revolution they want, the inflation of today will be dwarfed by what is to come in the years ahead.
Wed, 03/30/2022 – 20:20