Our 'Opium War' with Gasoline
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Originally published October 23, 2010
The United States and most of the other nations we might include as part of democratic industrialized society is at war. In effect it is the Grand World War. The "hot zone" battlefields are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan; brought to life every day on our TV and computer screens, in our newspapers and magazines, and on the radio. This war has been going on since at least 1914. Over the years the battlefields have moved, covering much of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and America's Pacific Ocean possessions.
However the main battleground in this war is not the hot zones where bullets are fired, the main battleground is anywhere where there is a gasoline filling station: along our streets and boulevards, our highways, and retail shopping strips.
We are fighting not just for our economic lives; our physical health is also under constant attack, even during this time of environmental enlightenment.
The enemy is already here; indeed, the enemy was pretty well born here, in Pennsylvania. Today the enemy makes its headquarters in cities like Riyadh, Tehran, Baghdad, Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi, Caracas, Moscow, Tripoli, Geneva, and Houston and Ottawa.
The enemy's deadly weapon is gasoline.
Yeah, I know, this sounds quite melodramatic; I intended it to be - I wrote this to be inflammatory. However, while this story may be overly dramatic, that doesn't mean it's not completely true. If it didn't incite intense emotion it wouldn't have captured my and my business partner's attention.
We are in a war where nothing is sacred; not family, not religion, not concern for the health of our family or fellow man, and not even national pride or patriotic spirit. No humane sentiment is of concern to this enemy; all kindly matters are ignored.
On several occasions, the world's super-powers (whoever they were at the time) have gone to war to force or defend trading rights. As Anne Korin and Gal Luft point out in their books* and public speeches, for centuries "common" salt had been the reason for war.
In the 1800's Britain and France went to war in Asia to force entire populations to use and become addicted to opium that was produced and sold by their respective commercial entities under "Royal Charter." When the indigenous governments tried to interfere and protect their citizens, Britain and France used their national armies to force the issue at gunpoint. The opium trade was one of Britain's most profitable. To be fair, if there is a fairness element in this history, Britain and France weren't the only countries involved in the opium trade, and they weren't the only to use military force; they were just the two most egregious offenders.
The important point here is that Britain is typically portrayed as being a "compassionate nation." So if a compassionate nation is willing to kill people to force them to become addicted to drugs (drugs that they wouldn't let their own citizens freely use), just imagine what uncompassionate regimes, cartels and business groups would do to ensure the uninterrupted addiction and use of their drugs. Think MAFIA, but on a really, really big scale.
At this point let me not mince words or hide behind metaphors. We are being manipulated by external and internal entities to use gasoline. Our politicians are bought off to insure that the addiction never ends. Trusted media personalities on all sides of the political spectrum are likewise bought off (in one manner or another) to spread lies and confuse their audience as to the benefits and necessity of our gasoline addiction – not just the addiction to foreign-oil gasoline, but to all gasoline. Regardless of where the petroleum oil originates, or where the gasoline is refined, because the industry is unified in global pricing and supply, every gallon of gasoline we buy props up the wealth and power of our enemies. We must figuratively disembowel and behead them by eliminating their drug. As Korin and Luft advise, we must turn "oil into salt" and strip away oil's strategic importance.
We do not need gasoline to power our vehicles. We do not need petroleum oil diesel to power our trucks and heavy machinery. There are alternatives that are available right now that are, and can be, domestically produced. What's more, you can make your own engine fuel right in your own backyard.
When we at The Auto Channel began our investigation into alternative fuels several years ago, among the issues we had to consider was why and how did we get ourselves into this state of gasoline addiction. Why would auto manufacturers not want diverse sources of fuel to power their vehicles? Didn't they want to encourage personal mobility? What do they stand to gain from poor fuel economy? How did America, or rather American companies lose their position as the dominant force in the oil industry and become the puppets of a small group of nomadic highwaymen who claim to rule under the preposterous notion of divine right?
There is not now, nor was there ever a good technical reason for gasoline to be the world's primary engine-fuel of choice. It was not because of greater availability - in fact, the fear that the world's supply of petroleum oil would end has been a serious concern since the late 1800's as early oil fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Oklahoma began petering out (it's only in recent years that we've come to learn that the world is not in danger of running out of petroleum-based sources to make gasoline).
The reason that gasoline became the dominant engine-fuel is an economic one. Unfortunately, it wasn't because it was economically beneficial to consumers; which would have at least been justifiable.
PULLING THE WOOL OVER OUR EYES
A hundred years ago, alcohol (ethanol) was the engine fuel of choice for unbiased persons-in-the-know. This was true in America and anywhere in the world that was starting to be impacted by that new-fangled invention, the automobile. For alcohol to be preferred over gasoline was really rather remarkable considering that it had to overcome the oil industry's forty-year head start in developing sophisticated production facilities and distribution outlets.
Moreover, alcohol had to overcome an onerous $2.08 tax on every gallon, not to mention the significant marketing war chest of John Rockefeller and Standard Oil.
Even Prohibition with its severe criminal penalties for producing alcohol, which was funded by Rockefeller's multi-million dollar "donations" to politicians, failed to quench the thirst for ethanol in business and technology leaders who knew its advantages.
The economic reason - the game-changer - was General Motor's discovery of lead as the gasoline additive to silence annoying engine knock, while allowing GM to build better performing engines (engines had to be dumbed-down to accommodate gasoline). By comparison, alcohol did not cause knock and could be used to fuel higher compression engines. GM's patented process (and their subsequent teaming with Standard Oil) meant that GM would earn about three cents per gallon for almost every gallon of leaded "ethyl" gasoline sold. They estimated that profits would be in the billions by the time their patents expired; profits that they would receive regardless of a vehicle's manufacturer, as long as the consumer used leaded gasoline. Alcohol distillation didn't offer comparable unique processes that could be patented.
With their attention riveted on this pot o'gold, there was nothing that was going to stop General Motors, not the health risks to the general population and not even the actual deaths of dozens of employees as a result of working with the lead formulas. Likewise, it was full-speed ahead for Standard Oil who now had a gasoline-committed partner/customer that just happened to be the world's number one automaker. (Although GM and Standard Oil would never be charged for collusion in their lead-gasoline venture, they were found guilty of conspiracy in Federal Court in what became known as the "Great American Streetcar Scandal.")
However, one thing stood in the way of gasoline's complete dominance as an engine fuel: Alcohol was better in every way (power, environment, cost, safety, renewable availability, and no reliance ever on foreign sources). Considering that America was the only industrialized nation with Prohibition, there was still plenty of potential competition from alcohol. And, as it was possible that Prohibition could eventually be overturned (which it was), alcohol and all its advantages would be back to challenge the monopoly of gasoline and its billions of dollars in profits. There was only one thing to do; fabricate lies about alcohol.
Nearly all the lies and misconceptions dreamed up by the oil/gasoline lobby to fight ethanol in the early days are still with us today. The lies are the direct opposite of the actual truths, and we deal with them in various articles published on TheAutoChannel.com (a great place to start is The Auto Channel Fights for the Truth about Ethanol Versus Gasoline).
BETRAYING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Alright, okay, so the motive was profits. That's not so bad considering that GM and Standard were public companies, with many American employees, so at least a small portion of the profits did go to shareholders and workers. That's what's supposed to happen, isn't it?
Yes, sort of, as long as in doing so our birthright is not given away or sold out from under us to people who don't care about the United States or their own country and people (this issue is not just a concern for America, it affects all of the aforementioned democratic industrialized nations).
At the beginning of the last century, as it became clear that the domestic oil supply wouldn't last forever, a world wide search was on for new deposits. Oil in the Middle East was not discovered by Iranians or Iraquis or Kuwaitis or Saudi Arabians; such people didn't even exist. There was no Iran or Iraq or Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates. Those names and geographical designations didn't come into use until well after a British businessman backed by his government made the initial discoveries. America's entry (defined as the huge expenditure of taxpayer dollars and American lives) into World War I secured Britain's oil interests and led the way to taking away adjacent oil-rich territory from the Turks (part of which is now known as Iraq).
Later, just prior to World War II, America's Standard Oil company discovered oil in the Persian Gulf and peninsula. This discovery rescued the so-called Saudi royal family from complete financial ruin. The development of all oil production was financed by Standard Oil, along with other commercial and government assistance. These oil discoveries and holdings were then secured through the United States' entry into WWII (defined as the enormous expenditure of financial and human resources).
So we, the American people, paid for the development and protection of the oil fields in the Middle East. But then, we gave it all away.
Yeah, I know, there are reasons why we gave it away; excuses for why it could be said that there is a benefit to giving some of the indigenous people part of the pie. The problem is that we, the American people, not only gave up the entire pie, we now have to pay premium rates for every additional piece of the pie - in addition to continuing to pay for the protection of the pie-making process.
Look at it this way: You start an ice cream business in another town. You need help running the store because you have other interests and don't live in the area. Your son-in-law, who is currently out of work needs something to do and you want to help your only daughter and her kids. So you bring your son-in-law into the business. You pay for his family's relocation, you give him a salary and a title, set up distribution for the ice cream in other cities, and you continue to finance the business. Sometime later you find out that your son-in-law is skimming from the receipts. Alright, you let it pass, figuring that it's okay since it's going to support your daughter and grandchildren.
But then, on a visit to the ice cream store, when you want a double-scoop of chocolate fudge swirl, your son-in-law asks you to pay full retail price for the ice cream cone. Hey, it makes you giggle a little - he's just trying to protect the business, your business. The only thing is that when you do the year-end accounting you find that there's no money in the bank and that your son-in-law has a girlfriend on the side (and that the trip he took to the ice cream industry convention in Las Vegas was really a sex-junket for him and the girlfriend). To add insult to injury, your son-in-law then changes the name of the business, changes the locks on the door, and files for divorce from your daughter.
If this happened to you, you would take some kind of action. But no, not the American government or the British government or the French government, or any of the other leaders of the countries that paid for the discovery and protection of Middle East oil; they didn't do anything. Instead we pay more and more and more for the "ice cream" that we should at least be getting at a wholesale price.
And our political leaders, who should be helping to get us off our reliance to gasoline do nothing to end the addiction.
Why? How? The answer is follow the money. The oil companies and politicians gave away the oil deposits but they kept the shipping and distribution, they kept the refineries, they kept the retail outlets. And perhaps most significantly, by installing their brothers-in-law (the nomadic highwaymen) as the groundskeepers, they created a ready-made excuse to drive prices up and keep them up to ensure their intake of trillions of dollars. Political corruption did not end with the demise of Tammany Hall; it did not end with the deaths of Boss Tweed or Jimmy Walker or Richard Daley or Spiro Agnew or Huey Long. It is alive and well in every significant state and federal elected officials' office. It is rampant throughout the world. The oil and gasoline industry has bought our politicians and they pay for it with our money and lives.
To draw the final connection between the ice cream analogy and the reality of the gasoline situation; to add insult to injury, instead of the world's car makers going to the gasoline industry to demand financial bailout (to continue producing inefficient gasoline-powered vehicles) they went to our corrupt politicians to get us to pay again for the vehicles that we already paid for.
The production of gasoline-powered vehicles must end. This gasoline-opium war must be terminated - in the peoples' favor. As we have stated in separate editorials on TheAutoChannel.com, we believe that electric vehicles are just a diversion to keep us globally addicted to gasoline. Electric might be the answer someday, but according to all major car makers that 'someday' is decades away. The immediate answer - the near time solution - is domestic ethanol. The cure for the current financial depression is the swift and vigorous development of domestically produced alternative fuels and alternative energy technologies. This is true for the United States and for all other democratic industrialized nations.
Alcohol and Driving Do Mix
No New Gasoline Powered Vehicles by 2014...Can It Be Done?
To watch Anne Korin's complete presentation at the 2010 American Coalition for Ethanol Conference CLICK HERE
* Anne Korin and Gal Luft co-authored "Turning Oil Into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice" in 2009
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I happen to love the UK and it's people. I love France and have gotten to like its people. I have no problem with a good war and I'm all for banging our flag over someone's head. I have been a capitalist businessman all my adult life and I despise socialism and communism. My comments are made to insure the strength and prosperity of America, and to destroy those who work against us.