EDITORIAL: Driven to conserve

Farmers are already looking with some concern at rising fuel prices and the negative effect those prices might have on their bottom line. The last thing they need is one more economic blow.

The rest of us, of course, are affected directly or indirectly by the economic fate of our farmer friends. Beyond that, though, we seem to be weathering the fuel and gasoline price hike quite nicely, thank you. Sure, we complain about the price, but our local station owners report no reduction in gallons sold. Apparently, we?re content to take our lumps in the pocket book in order to keep our collective pedals to the medal.

This latest ?fuel crisis? is a pale cousin to the gas lines and high prices we recall from the 1970s. Middle East oil barons were the culprits then even as they apparently are today. The current rise in prices is due to an agreement to cut oil production. This decision was made following a decline in world oil prices in late 1997, which remained low into early 1999.

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration data, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries? 2000 oil export revenues are up 59 percent from 1999 and 113 percent form 1998. This year, oil export revenues are expected to be the highest since 1984.

The sharp increase was caused by several key factors. First, OPEC decided to cut is daily production quota an additional 1.7 million barrels from the 2.5 million cutback it announced earlier. OPEC compliance to the quota is high and a strong world oil demand. Though the politics seem muddled, analysts say the result for us is that prices will go even higher before they decline.

The fuel crisis of the 1970s generated a lot of discussion about reducing fuel consumption and conserving our natural resources, which were thought to be finite.

Such talk seems almost quaint these days. Maybe it?s too early to think of conserving. Or maybe we choose to believe that our oil reserves are so vast, as some argue, that we have no reason to think they will run out in the foreseeable future.

Even if that?s true, conservation still makes sense. And these days, it makes cents, too.

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