Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Venezuelan Hillbillies

OPEC is having a meeting in Vienna. Say what you will about OPEC, at least they can pick a venue with the best of them. It was just a little over a year ago that we were in Wien, getting beer from a cow. But I digress. In October or November of last year I was all heated up because oil was at $86 a barrel and on a rocket ride toward $100 per. I didn't really think it would get so expensive that $106 would look like a bargain, but here we are.

The huge runup in oil has done a few geopolitical things. Hugo Chavez, who has to look like an absolute ass no matter who you are, has been able to extend and expand his charade and saber rattling. To a far greater and scarier extent, so have Putin and Medvedev. The Russian economy is about 1/7th the size of the US economy, but their strong hand in natural resources makes them feel a LOT more confident than they otherwise might. When Europe depends on your energy resources, you have a heck of a hand to play, but your strategy when your income is predicated on $146/barrel oil is a little different than it is at $106/barrel. A little more expansive. The 'new cold war' or reemergent Russia threat or whatever you want to call it is definitely worrisome, but ir's probably a little too early to be banging any shoes on the table.

The problem, of course, is that we are shortsighted and think with our pocketbooks and not the collective good. I wish it were possible to have lower oil prices to take away the strategic empowerment of what amount to a bunch of sketchy f**ks who supply most of the world's oil, without everybody saying "hey, look here, gas is cheaper, I need me a new Escalade."

Lastly, and what should have been firstly, it's the anniversary of 9/11. While I'm last in line for hollow flag waving, I will be spending some time today remembering the people who were lost. One of my good childhood friends lost her father in the World Trade Center. For someone who grew up in the NY suburbs, knowing a ton of people who got on trains to NY every morning, the people I know were almost freakishly fortunate. I know people who live on streets where 4 or 5 parents didn't come home that day. Whatever good things America means to you, keep them in your mind and work to make them more prevalent. We don't all have to agree, but if our philosophies are grounded in integrity, we can't get too far wrong.

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