Oil: Can’t Live With It; Can’t Live Without It

As I was driving into town, I noticed how much more expensive gasoline was this week than it had been last week.  At least 25c more per gallon (at places like Sam’s Club — more at private stations).  In fact, the ups and downs in prices on gasoline seem to be mimicking the ups and downs we have been experiencing with our weather of late.  Anyway, I was wondering why the gas prices were once again on the rise.

I guess I have become quite cynical in my old age because it finally dawned on me that this past weekend, there had been a large gathering of people in Washington to protest any further drilling for oil on our lands.  According to a friend of mine who attended, there were around 40,000 people who braved very frigid weather  to protest the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to U.S. And so  I concluded that the oil companies were raising the prices at the gas stations so that people would “buy into” the idea that drilling on our own lands would provide cheaper gasoline.  What better way to make the point than in people’s wallets.

According to U.S. News and World Report:

There’s no business on the planet that gushes forth more profit than selling oil — nothing even close.

In 2007, Exxon beat its own one-year old record of the biggest corporate profits ever by 3 percent.  If Exxon were a country, it would exceed the gross domestic product of nearly two thirds of the 183 nations in the World Bank’s economic rankings.

The article further asserts that at that time, Exxon’s profits were 80% higher than General Electric, once considered one of the most successful companies in the United States.

The most recent quarterly earnings (ie December 2012) for ExxonMobil shows a revenue of $449.89 billion with a profit margin of 9.98% or $41 billion in profits.  Astoundingly enough, even with these kinds of numbers, Exxon gets tax breaks.  Not only that, but they have the arrogance to gripe about the fact that President Obama is making noises of taking those tax breaks away.

In an article written by Katarzyna Klimasinska and Jim Snyder for Bloomberg News,

Chief Executive Officer Rex. W. Tillerson and four counterparts defended the $21 billion in U.S. tax breaks that Democrats are seeking to recapture to reduce the federal deficit.

The Democrats’ proposal would raise about $13 billion by blocking the five largest oil and gas companies from receiving a domestic-manufacturing deduction for exploration and extraction in the U.S……[and] generate $6.5 billion by curtailing the oil companies’ ability to claim tax credits for royalty payments made to foreign governments.

Royalty payments to foreign governments?  I could go into the rampant use of euphemisms by those in power, but I better remain focussed on the topic at hand.  Royalty payments to foreign governments.   Oh, that’s right.  We mostly drill in other countries.  Unfortunately, and this is probably for another article, much of the drilling that goes on by these huge corporations are in impoverished parts of the world like Angola or Nigeria.  As we pump Shell, Exxon, or BP into our cars, we remain blissfully unaware of what goes on “over there.”  Because there are no stringent regulations in place with regard to environmental soundness, ecological areas are destroyed by the drilling that these companies do.   It is not our backyard.  It’s not even in the State next door.  In fact, the destruction of those environments are so removed from our immediate realities, that we can’t even conceptualize thousands upon thousands of acres that are left to fester in the waste product of the extraction process.

Furthermore, people in these parts of the world are displaced from their homes if their homes happen to be sitting on a site that may produce crude oil.  Some people are even killed and the villages destroyed.  Now I am not saying that BP or Shell are behind these destructive means of acquiring land.  At least not directly.  Nevertheless, these are terrible realities that exist in other countries to allow us our freedom to come and go as we please.

So here we have huge oil conglomerates who receive incredible tax breaks and make more money than God, pushing to extract oil in the United States.  Of course we have tasted some of the repercussions of oil spills over the years destroying the ecology of our coastlines.  We all cry out in horror and shame, scramble to do some clean up, and then go to the gas pumps to fill ‘er up again.

We would have to so radically change our lifestyle to stop being so dependent on oil.  I am not sure that we have it in us to proactively do this.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013


Moderation in All Things

As I have stated in previous posts, our healthcare system is dominated by what I term the Big Three: Insurance Companies, Pharmaceuticals, Hospitals.  As with most communication, and by the fact that I am passionate about the need to re-vamp our healthcare approach, I may have sounded a little too strongly at how the system being dominated by the Big Three with focus on profits has a potentially adverse affect on the health of our country.

There is no question that the Three developed as the needs of our population arose.  Our Democracy is based on a capitalistic foundation.  Thus it would follow that pursuing profits would be an inherent part of any business.  We, as a country, also put great stock in the Scientific Community.  Thus it would follow that pursuing new means of coming up with cures would play a dominant factor in medicine.

However, as with any pursuit or endeavor in life, when the focus leans too much in one direction, it can have adverse affects on the opposite side and I do believe that at this stage, the focus of the Big Three has veered too much on the profits and finances, ultimately undermining the service side of their work.  If a doctor is required to bring X amount of $s into the “firm” and that can only happen by seeing X amount of patients in a given day and/or suggesting so many procedures or specialty visits, then the patient and his/her health is affected (not to mention the doctor’s, whose life has the added stress of having to bring in so much money).  Nowadays, often, young people go into the field of medicine because it assures a good living.  Even if a young person has gone into the field for idealistic reasons, ie, helping those in need, the demands of the system and the focus on the money side of things will quickly overwhelm the original intent of the young person going into the field.

When my grandfather practiced medicine, he was a General Practitioner.  He was the one that people went to if they had a tummy ache, or a toothache, or a wart, or were about to give birth.  If his patients didn’t have the money to pay, he might receive a side of ham instead.  If he did not have an answer, he would suggest a visit to someone who might have a more specialized background.  Litigation against doctors did not exist back then.  As far as I know, my grandfather never lost a patient on an operating table.  But people were much more accepting that death COULD be an outcome.

So the times they have changed.  But just as they have changed into this extreme scenario in which it is now considered natural to spend 15 minutes with a doctor and leave with a prescription and/or to try everything that is being offered to keep someone alive (regardless of statistics that may help families recognize that there is very little chance for survival),  maybe now is the time to re-focus our attention on the promotion of health, rather than playing catch up to ill-health and permit change to again occur.  (In fact, I believe the ability to change and see things in new ways is one of the elements that makes our country so great).

This, then, is the basis of my passionate writing on this subject.  Thus, just as I make the point that it is time for our system to moderate itself, I, too, plan to moderate my writings on the subject.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013