Bob Zubrin is still selling flex-fueled cars (at least conceptually), which might be a good idea, but I wish that he weren’t doing so with over-the-top rhetoric and economic ignorance. Here’s the very first graf:
Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez recently joined Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad in threatening to raise oil prices to $200 per barrel. The threat should be taken quite seriously. With no practical transportation fuel alternative to petroleum available to the world market, the OPEC oil cartel has already been successful in raising prices an order of magnitude since 1999, with a 50 percent increase effected in 2007 alone.
I disagree that this threat should be taken seriously. The notion that oil can ever get to a sustainable $200/barrel, in inflation and currency-adjusted terms, is ludicrous, regardless of the clearly malign intent of Hugo and Mahmoud. They are not capable of achieving this. No one is.
First of all, they don’t control the world’s oil markets. The Saudis (and increasingly, the Iraqis) will have a major say as well. But even if you could get an agreement within OPEC to do so (a ludicrous notion in itself, because the individual members tend to look after their own interests), it still would never happen. First, many states would cheat. But more importantly, the current price is unsustainable at near-term (over the next decade or two) projected demand levels because there are many new sources that are available at production costs much lower than current prices (e.g., tar sands and shale in the western US and Canada). The only reason that they haven’t brought down the price yet is that they’re only starting to come on line.
And if the price did somehow get to that value (as the Saudis understand, even if economically ignorant boobs like Ahmadinejad and Chavez don’t) it would cause a recession that would depress world wide demand. Also, unless you can drive the price of oil to zero, it’s not going to starve the oil dictators of their oil revenues. The only way to do that is to take away their oil (as we did with Saddam). I’m not necessarily proposing that we do so–just pointing out the only realistic way to accomplish it.
On top of this, much of the price rise that Bob Zubrin decries is due to the weak dollar, and has nothing to do with either supply or demand of oil.
Maybe such overblown rhetoric and economic nonsense will sell the concept for him; it’s certainly worked to good effect for the global warm-mongers–but I’d be more persuaded if he’d be more realistic. There are a lot of good arguments for ending the burning of oil for transportation as soon as we can, and I wish that he’d stick to them, instead of doing an impression of Gary North.