It's no secret that the U.S. economy sucks right now. It's even less of a surprise that the global economy sucks as well. Badly timed failures of credit and mortgage lenders have led to increased foreclosures, deteriorating property values, plummeting credit ratings, massive layoffs, etc etc.
We've weathered these storms before. What was the final push?
Depending on who you talk to, it's either a surprise or it wasn't. Oil is a finite resource and given the turmoil caused by the 1970s oil crisis, another repeat seemed inevitable. That pesky OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) really knows how to screw with the global marketplace, but their actions are fair, given that everyone in the world wants what they have and that everyone seems to treat them with disdain.
China's unprecedented growth doesn't help matters, creating a seemingly life-and-death struggle for dwindling resources. The largest populated country is now the second largest importer of oil, overtaking Japan with almost four million barrels per day (bpd), and its thirst only seems to get larger. Heaven forbid it overtakes the United States and its 10 million bpd appetite. It eventually will, and the ramifications of another global power are already starting to show.
While President George W. Bush gets a lot of flack for crude oil prices being at historic highs of $130+, I'm more inclined to view the prices as a sign of the times. It seems almost silly to look back at the frenzy $70 oil caused back in 2005. Oil speculation be damned.
The world is, for better or worse, changing. Those who can, survive; those who can't, die.
That might be a little overdramatic, but on a global scale, it's not far-fetched to be thinking in those terms. Charles Darwin was a smart man.
Most people tend to have a normal out-of-sight out-of-mind view of life. The problem is that their reality and actual reality are displaced so much that they don't see how interconnected the world really is.
You want cheap gas? Then you have to let your government make shady trade deals with politically unstable governments (see China's lucrative relationship with Sudan), say yes to offshore drilling (see how quickly Californians forget the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill), forget our "true goals" for being in Iraq, and continue to live miles away from where you work so that your demand for oil never decreases.
It's amazing how close the end of the world seems when you have to pay over four dollars for a gallon of gas. But of course, it doesn't end there. Doomsday seems almost certain now that the once almighty Starbucks has met its match in McDonalds. I guess $4 did seem like a lot to pay for coffee and now widespread penny-pinching has fortunately halted the oversaturating coffee chain and hopefully marks the decline of the consumer era (especially its obscene obsession with packaging).
People need to get smarter with how they live their lives by prioritizing and making better decisions. Contrary to popular belief, many more borrowers received subprime loans to pay off existing loans than did borrowers looking to buy new homes with risky credit.
People need to be informed about how their decisions affect the world (and they really do). Crude oil prices might seem to affect only gas prices, but, as we see with the mounting troubles of the airline industry, and the cost of food rising for a variety of oil-related reasons, including ethanol demand as well as increased transportation costs, our problems are truly related to pretty much a single commodity.
Lifestyle changes are probably the easiest solution; conservation probably the most sensible; but now that the national average for gas seems to have peaked, those positive changes, such as the adoption of High Speed Rail, the extinction of gas guzzling automobiles, the "buy local" food movement, the rising use of public transportation, the increased awareness of environmental issues, including land use and water diversion, all might be fleeting.
Can people be trusted to make the right decisions? Never. True leadership is always needed to make good decisions for the people (mostly for those who don't care and especially for those who care too much), which is why the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton democratic nomination fight wasn't a joke. It hopefully marks a change that people are no longer content with just any person leading and governing them.
I've meandered much from my original idea, but as complicated as I've unintentionally made this rant, the fact remains that the actual issues and the many hypothesized solutions are far more complex than those few issues I've merely touched upon. Life was much easier and simpler when gas was $1/gallon (and I actually do remember those wonderful times), but 9/11 helped make those carefree memories so distant that worrying about global warming and climate change almost seems comical.