Sunday, February 19, 2006

Match in the gas tank... boom, boom!

An outfit called ExxposeExxon has a funny, fitting Flash movie called "Toast the Earth". The authors are apparently the Austin Lounge Lizards. A company called Powerhouse Animation did the Flash work. I think it's great! Hat tip to The Ergosphere.

After you watch the animation you may notice some buttons to the right, which are 1) a link to email your friends to watch the movie, 2) a link to send a message to Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil's CEO, and 3) a link to replay the movie.

By all means, replay the movie! ;>)

The message to Tillerson starts out
Our country remains overly dependent on oil, which has serious consequences ranging from rising gasoline prices that burden every American to global warming that threatens current and future generations.
So far so good, though I tend to think gasoline prices should be much, much higher, possibly this much higher. [Update: I added "this much higher" as comment 1 below.] The message to Tillerson continues:

This addiction to oil represents a failed energy strategy, one that your company not only supports but has helped to develop. I am most disturbed by:

* ExxonMobil's active support of drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
Unfortunately, I tend to disagree on drilling in ANWR. It's just that, given what we face, it's a lesser evil than what might be. In fact, it's probably a lesser evil than what will be anyway, but it seems to me we've got to go for every energy source available until we have time to come to our senses. Otherwise, the odds that we'll have time to come to our senses are diminished.

* ExxonMobil's efforts to block meaningful action to cut global warming pollution and its funding of junk science to hide the real facts about global warming;
Well, yes, I think ExxonMobil is guilty of that charge. Guilty as hell, along with many other companies regarding many other issues. Here, or here.

* ExxonMobil's conscious decision to forgo investment in clean energy solutions - despite your record profits at a time of rising gasoline prices;

* ExxonMobil's failure to pay all of the punitive damages awarded to fishermen and others injured by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

ExxonMobil represents yesterday's energy policy; I would rather spend my money and time moving forward, not backward.

That's why I will NOT purchase ExxonMobil's gas or products, invest in ExxonMobil stock, or work for the company.
I don't think I've bought a drop of Exxon gasoline since I cut up my Exxon card after the Exxon Valdez, with its single hull, ran aground. I think Exxon did screw a lot of people in the aftermath of that fiasco. I don't think I'd turn down a job offer, though, if I needed one. After all, in future years the energy industry will probably be the place to be (though I'd much rather be in the nuclear, solar or wind fields than the fossil energy industry).

Enjoy the movie. If you can't see Flash movies for some reason, here are the lyrics:

Toast the Earth

The globe is slowly warming, real scientists all know.
But ExxonMobil's here to claim it really isn't so.
They pay for puppet scientists to dance upon a string,
And contradict the obvious so no one does a thing

So raise your glass to ExxonMobil.
Drink some more; refill your cup.
Have some more, there's always plenty.
Drain it dry, now bottoms-up.

Toast the Earth with ExxonMobil.
Run the tap 'til closing time.
Let those others tilt at windmills.
Ride the tiger, you'll be fine.

Beyond the frozen Yukon, the polar bears are scared.
The caribou are nervous; the seals feel ill-prepared.
ExxonMobil's come to drill the Arctic refuge!
Trashing wildlife... Oh, who cares?
Profits will be huge!

So raise your glass to ExxonMobil.
Everybody's friend, indeed.
Nice to know they're thinking global,
Twisting science to serve their greed.

Toast the Earth with ExxonMobil.
Just ignore that burning smell.
Sweltering is second nature
When the world gets hot as hell.

Match in the gas tank...
Boom, boom!
What I'd like to see now is a similar movie heaping scorn on Hummer drivers.


Steve said...

February 16, 2006
Economic Scene
A Way to Cut Fuel Consumption That Everyone Likes, Except the Politicians

SUPPOSE a politician promised to reveal the details of a simple proposal that would, if adopted, produce hundreds of billions of dollars in savings for American consumers, significant reductions in traffic congestion, major improvements in urban air quality, large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and substantially reduced dependence on Middle East oil. The politician also promised that the plan would require no net cash outlays from American families, no additional regulations and no expansion of the bureaucracy.

As economists often remind their students, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So this politician's announcement would almost surely be greeted skeptically. Yet a policy that would deliver precisely the outcomes described could be enacted by Congress tomorrow — namely, a $2-a-gallon tax on gasoline whose proceeds were refunded to American families in reduced payroll taxes.

Proposals of this sort have been advanced frequently in recent years by both liberal and conservative economists. Invariably, however, pundits are quick to dismiss these proposals as "politically unthinkable."

But if higher gasoline taxes would make everyone better off, why are they unthinkable? Part of the answer is suggested by the fate of the first serious proposal to employ gasoline taxes to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil. The year was 1979 and the country was still reeling from the second of two oil embargoes. To encourage conservation, President Jimmy Carter proposed a steep tax on gasoline, with the proceeds to be refunded in the form of lower payroll taxes.

Mr. Carter's opponents mounted a rhetorically brilliant attack on his proposal, arguing that because consumers would get back every cent they paid in gasoline taxes, they could, and would, buy just as much gasoline as before. Many found this argument compelling, and in the end, President Carter's proposal won just 35 votes in the House of Representatives.

The experience appears to have left an indelible imprint on political decision makers. To this day, many seem persuaded that tax-cum-rebate proposals do not make economic sense. But it is the argument advanced by Mr. Carter's critics that makes no sense. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how such a program would alter people's opportunities and incentives.

Some examples help to illustrate how the program would work. On average, a family of four currently consumes almost 2,000 gallons of gasoline annually. If all families continued to consume gasoline at the same rate after the imposition of a $2-a-gallon gasoline tax, the average family would pay $4,000 in additional gasoline taxes annually. A representative family with two earners would then receive an annual payroll tax refund of $4,000. So, if all other families continued to buy as much gasoline as before, then, this family's tax rebate would enable it to do so as well, just as Mr. Carter's critics claimed.

But that is not how things would play out. Suppose, for example, that the family was about to replace its aging Ford Explorer, which gets 15 miles per gallon. It could buy another Explorer. Or it could buy Ford's new Focus wagon, which has almost as much cargo capacity and gets more than 30 miles per gallon. The latter choice would save a whopping $2,000 annually at the pump. Not all families would switch, of course, but many would.

From the experience of the 1970's, we know that consumers respond to higher gasoline prices not just by buying more efficient cars, but also by taking fewer trips, forming carpools and moving closer to work. If families overall bought half as much gasoline as before, the rebate would be not $2,000 per earner, but only $1,000. In that case, our representative two-earner family could not buy just as much gasoline as before unless it spent $2,000 less on everything else. So, contrary to Mr. Carter's critics, the tax-cum-rebate program would profoundly alter not only our incentives but also our opportunities.

A second barrier to the adoption of higher gasoline taxes has been the endless insistence by proponents of smaller government that all taxes are bad. Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, has opposed higher gasoline taxes as inconsistent with the administration's belief that prices should be set by market forces. But as even the most enthusiastic free-market economists concede, current gasoline prices are far too low, because they fail to reflect the environmental and foreign policy costs associated with gasoline consumption. Government would actually be smaller, and we would all be more prosperous, if not for the problems caused by what President Bush has called our addiction to oil.

At today's price of about $2.50 a gallon, a $2-a-gallon tax would raise prices by about 80 percent (leaving them still more than $1 a gallon below price levels in Europe). Evidence suggests that an increase of that magnitude would reduce consumption by more than 15 percent in the short run and almost 60 percent in the long run. These savings would be just the beginning, because higher prices would also intensify the race to bring new fuel-efficient technologies to market.

The gasoline tax-cum-rebate proposal enjoys extremely broad support. Liberals favor it. Environmentalists favor it. The conservative Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker has endorsed it, as has the antitax crusader Grover Norquist. President Bush's former chief economist, N. Gregory Mankiw, has advanced it repeatedly.

In the warmer weather they will have inherited from us a century from now, perspiring historians will struggle to explain why this proposal was once considered politically unthinkable.

Robert H. Frank, an economist at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, is the co-author, with Ben S. Bernanke, of "Principles of Economics." E-mail:

jj mollo said...

It's possible that Exxon will be one of the losers with such a tax. I quit buying their gas on the same occasion.

The problem is that clever disinformation can very easily clog the 3-way bandwidth between voters, economists and politicians. The word "tax" is like a short circuit, eliminating all need for thought. The fact that a clever consumer would make out like a bandit doesn't even seem to occur to the voters.

John Anderson proved that a carbon tax was hard to sell in 1980. Is it too early to try again? Bush could sell it if he wanted to. I look forward to the day when the grownups get elected.