Petroleum, Economic Uses of

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Petrol prices are rising and pollution is increasing. Should laws be introduced to changed our lifestyle habits?

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No - laws to force changes in lifestyle habits would be unenforceable and unconstitutional. When prices get high enough, people will start finding other means of transportation. When pollution becomes bad enough, people will find ways to live without causing so much of it.

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Some laws are in place to encourage the use of alternative fuels.  In the US, there are more incentives to encourage alternative fuels than laws to discourage petroleum based products.  For instance, the incentives for purchasing hybrid or other energy efficent vehicals.  It would be difficult to force people to change their lifestyle habits when there are so few alternatives.  Alternative fuel technologies are not as well developed as oil based technologies.  Until these alternatives are well developed and cost effective, it will be difficult to force/encourage people to make major lifestyle changes.

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There are a number of ways that the US government could incentivize wise use of energy, indeed it already does so. But there are two different, though related issues moving through this thread. One is rising oil costs, and the other is pollution. The price of oil is speculation driven, but even that is related to supply, i.e. the price of oil is rising because speculators think it will be more scarce in the future, largely due to political crises. The problem is that there are ways to lower oil prices, but they aren't all necessarily environmentally sound. 

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American automakers have long had the technology to make the switch to environmentally sound electric cars, but as long as (1) the public still wants speed and power; (2) politicians bow down to the oil lobby; and (3) Detroit refuses to invest $$$ in more electric prototypes, pollution via gas-powered cars will continue.

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There have been a lot of increases in taxes and prices, but a large part of the increase in fuel prices comes from increased demand or predicted increased demand. Oil markets are largely speculation driven. This leads prices to go up. Everyone knows there is limited supply. No one wants a refinery in their backyard. So you can see how environmental efforts actually lead to higher prices too. Reducing dependency is the only way to solve this.

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No, laws should not be introduced.  At least, there should not be laws that limit how much we can drive.  It is okay if the government imposes a carbon tax or does something else to encourage us to change our ways.  But actually making laws that would force us to change does not seem appropriate in a free society.

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I think that there might be a fine line between government action and the government mandate to change lifestyle habits.  As being witnessed right now with the Supreme Court hearings and the individual mandate regarding health care, I am not sure any government mandate within the realm of individual lifestyle habits will stand the test and scrutiny of Constitutionality. I am not sure that the Energy department is equipped or empowered to do such a thing.   I think that government can create "incentives" for individuals to change lifestyle habits, such as tax credit for energy efficient appliances or motor vehicles.  I think that government can encourage the purchase of such items, perhaps helping to subsidize the cost of tax on such purchases.  Yet, I think that there is a danger in having members of the energy department regulate and mandate individual lifestyle habits in regards to the increase in gas prices.  I also believe that government can play a role in encouraging oil companies to decrease profits and pass those savings onto the consumers, helping to alleviate the pressure of gas prices.  Yet, I think that to have government move into the realm of individual lifestyle habits is an issue that might not withstand scrutiny of the Constitution, something that can be seen with the current mandate of health care provision in front of the court right now.

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