IrishMuse: you make an interesting assertion about those who cause harm. But I don't think that it is because it does not interest them, but because they really don't care if they do harm. Of course there is also a large portion who don't see that the harm that they do is actually harm. They lack the gift of having a correct grasp on reality.
"Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them, or they do not see it, or they justify it becasue they are absorbed in the endless struggle to thnk well of themselves." T.S. Eliot
Again, gasoline is not oil. Simple statement, but huge impact.
Gasoline price increases also reflect the increased refining to reduce sulfur content, increased use of refining catalysts to reduce gasoline contaminates in general, increased costs for additives to replace tetra-ethyl lead for octane improvement, and even mandated use of ethanol in gasoline.
In short, crude is generally still crude, but gasoline today is not the same product sold 30, 20, or even 10 years ago.
The price of refined products, (such as gasoline) is not necessarily directly related to the price of oil. Supply and demand for gasoline has to consider supply restrictions at all levels of production, not just crude supplies.
The price of oil can go down and the price of gasoline go up when, for one reason or another, refineries reach capacity. This can happen slowly due to the long term progressive increases in usage of gasoline vs the step function expansion of refinery capacity, or it can be sudden such as when major refinery accidents occur and capacity is lost.
It is even more complicated when you consider that gasoline is blended differently (due to EPA regulations) in different parts of the country and all refineries can't make all products. Supply and demand will cause the gasoline price in some areas to rise faster than others.
NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) and the EPA are making it more and more difficult to site new refineries in the US. We are producing more oil here and getting more the refining done offshore introducing even more potential restrictions to the supply chain.
Wow, a diatribe on economics that ignores the effects of regulation! Who'd a thought!
The reduction in fuel milage attributed to the auto makes and/or free market economics is actually driven by federal regulations.
First, the weight/complexity of vehicles is increased to provide myriad safety features from enhanced bumpers to airbags. All these things may be great, but they have a significant impact of vehicle performance.
Second, increasing compression ratios and combustion temperatures improves engine efficiency. Good for fuel mileage ... and for producing NOx (nitrous oxides) in the exhaust. In order to meet regulations limiting NOx emissions combustion temperatures are reduced in modern engines, compression ratios reduced, and catalytic converters used to burn off the unburned hydrocarbons. Those unburned hydrocarbons burned off in the catalytic converter are the fuel intentionally"wasted" to meet the federal emissions standards.
The regulations may be needed, they may be the right thing to do, but they have a cost that is frequently ignored. In this case, you want to blame the free market for something nearly entirely driven by government regulations.
I like things that are low maintenance. Something easy to please, does not require constant pampering, attention or gifts or things done "their way or no way". Easy-going, unselfish and usually a joy to be around. Subarus Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas sound like my kind of car.
My wife, my sons, and I drive cars based on the B5 generation (late 1990s/early 2000s) Audi A4 platform. Having previously owned exceptionally DIY-friendly late 1980s Chrysler K-cars and K-car derivatives, we initiallly needed some time to find our way around the VW/Audi engine compartment, but now these cars no longer seem so intimidating. Having access to superb online discussion forums at Passatworld.com, vwvortex.com, and several Audi enthusiast websites has helped immensely, and my Vehicle Control Diagnostic Software has helped me pinpoint problems efficiently.
German cars generally deliver a superb driving experience, but they are like spoiled children, requiring syntheic motor oil, Tier 1 gasoline, biennial brake fluid changes, and fastidious maintenance. VW/Audi cars have a specific weakness in rubber parts, such as seals, CV boots, and vacuum hoses. If you want a car which thrives on neglect, get a Toyota Corolla or Camry or a Honda Civic or Accord.
I retired from one of the "majors" in the appliance industry. The company I worked for had component managers for: elements, gas-fired burners, platform structures, maintops, electronic controls, etc etc. These engineers knew their components but it was up the to platform manager and program leaders to "mesh" these components into the proper package to provide a workable appliance. All too often, that did not happen with any real ease. Schedules were king and designs sometimes suffered due to unrealistic schedules. There did not seem to be the "systems" approach to an overall assembly of components. The products were safe but not very competitive with West European designs--at least when reliability was concerned. It seems to me we are looking at a very similar problem with the American Auto industry.
The explanation for the increase in gas prices is probably similar to the explanation of why Dogbert,(evil HR director), in the Dilbert comic strip, explains why he does such evil things. The answer: "Because I can". Evil needs no additional motivation. YES, I certainly am being judgemental.
The problem is not that "we are addicted to oil", the reason is that we are quite attached to the degree of personal freedom that we have available to us by reason of our high level of personal mobility. That is, we can jump in our car and go almost anywhere at almost any time. In huge sections of the developed world you can't do that. As Americans, we are indeed addicted to personal freedom. Of course, that does include the freedom to do things that some say is not good for us.
Of course, on some rare occasions even engineers may make mistakes. That is what separates us from MBAs; they always make mistakes.
I have to admit that I'm okay with profit and even a little bit of greed. I think where so many companies fall short is in their focus on the short term. Too many CEOs fear a quick exit, so they focus on the short term and ignore the long-term consequences. I don't understand why a bond of trust between consumer and automaker -- built over a long period of time -- should be deemed less profitable.
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