June 25, 2008

We Can Make a Difference

T He queues at the petrol pumps have subsided but the headlines now warn us of the economic doom that is to follow.

It appears the higher cost of food and fuel is here to stay and will take its toll not just nationally, but globally.

So why are oil prices so high?

The truth, quite unbelievably, is that no one actually knows!

Don't get me wrong, there is certainly no shortage of possible theories. Among the most popular are that there is a shortage of oil in the world and the OPEC nations aren't increasing output.

The fact is that currently the world demand for oil is 86 million barrels of oil per day and the world is currently producing 87 million barrels per day.

So where is the shortage?

It still costs the same to drill, refine, transport and distribute the oil - no change in the costs whatsoever.

What has changed is the huge rise in the selling price, meaning huge profits for the "long suffering" oil companies. And that massive profit being made by the oil companies is one thing that should be questioned.

So why is the price of food so high?

Apart from the rise in the cost of transporting the food, it's a known phenomenon that the richer a nation gets, the more food it buys. That doesn't necessarily mean that the food is actually consumed, it just means it's bought. For example, here in the UK we waste a third of the food we buy.

In countries like Russia, India and China, there has been an increase in the disposable income of the people. People who were eating vegetables are now eating more meat.

The other reason for increased food cost is even more shocking. We're burning it. Increasing demand for bio-fuels is increasing demand for food. Europeans, at least, are questioning the use of bio-fuel because of its impact on food prices and the environment.

The Americans are less discerning.

Bio-fuel is taking away food from the people to produce energy.

Morally, how can we invest in technology that burns food for our fuel when so much of the world faces starvation on a daily basis?

Food prices are expected to stay high for a while now. But if there is drought in any major food producing nation, they'll get considerably worse.

The price of oil too, is expected to stay high into the foreseeable future.

If Iran is attacked, the situation will become considerably worse.

I know that if I go to the store tomorrow it will still be stacked high with food that I can still afford to buy.

But what of those in Africa or India where rice and lentils - considered the staple diet of the poor - are no longer affordable? Wouldn't it be great if peace were to be fortified not by weapons of war but by wheat, cotton, milk and rice? Words understood by every language on earth. However, we live in a world that chooses to spend 12 times as much on buying weapons as on creating global equality.

So what can we do here in Bristol?

It's easy to hesitate and think that anything we do will prove small and insignificant. But let me tell you, if you have been in a room with a mosquito you'll know that even "small and insignificant" can have an impact!

The answer for me is easy - live simply so that others may simply live.

(c) 2008 Evening Post (Bristol UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.