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P.J. O'Rourke Talks About Gas Prices, Islamic Fundamentalism, And Britney Spears

ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 24 -- Forget everything you ever heard about gasoline prices-PRIMEDIA's Automobile Magazine's correspondent, humorist P.J. O'Rourke, will explain to you why they are so ... low.

In the June issue of Automobile, O'Rourke, known for his bombastic opinions, let's fly with some unregulated information on the price of gas. Adjusted for inflation, ``gasoline, some recent price hikes notwithstanding, is cheap,'' he argues. ``When Bonnie and Clyde were on the lam in their Ford V-8, they paid the equivalent of more than $2 a gallon, and it is little wonder that they took up bank robbery ... Adjusting for inflation, a barrel of oil now costs one third what it did in 1870, when they didn't even know what to do with oil and were using to make tar babies for Joel Chandler Harris fables.''

Prices have stayed relatively low despite what has to be one of the scariest Middle East crises of recent years. (There's always a Middle East crisis, this one is just scarier than most.) ``The Middle East contains 65 percent of the world's proved petroleum reserves,'' O'Rourke notes, ``And the Middle East is -- to use terminology current among the upper echelons of Washington's diplomatic corps -- a flaming sack of crap ... Islamic fundamentalism sweeps the Arab world, a nutty teenage fad like Britney Spears except with suicide explosives taped to her exposed tummy.''

Part of the elusive answer as to why gasoline, despite the Middle East disaster, hasn't hit the highs of the early 1970s, during the OPEC oil crisis, is that Americans are actually using less gas then previously, he argues. ``U.S. oil consumption went from more than 20 million barrels a day in August 2001 to about 18.8 million a day in January 2002. Lower demand equals lower price.''

What's more, there's plenty of gas out there. Statistics provided by British Petroleum indicate there are proved global reserves of 300 billion barrels in the world, larger than reserves were in the early 1980s. Even if Arabs hate the U.S., they will still have to sell oil to it. Iraq is America's sixth largest oil supplier

And, a patriotic O'Rourke reminds us that things are way different in other ways from the past. American might now projects easily across the world with little challenge. ``It doesn't matter how much they hate us, they've got to do something with that oil. They have to get that oil out of the ground, or they will be naked and starving, and when they want to launch a terrorist attack, they'll have to sneak into Jerusalem shopping malls and kick sand at Israelis. They have to sell us their oil. (P.S. Or else.)''