You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

July 29, 2008

Why Don't They Use Bicycles?

By: Bernard Chazelle

China is experiencing one of the most spectacular runs of economic growth in human history. People who not long ago feared famine are now purchasing their first automobile. Kind of nice for the kids to be able to visit grandma on the weekend without having to bike 20 miles in the hot sun.

But the IMF is very upset. US economists are having hissy fits. You see, Evil China subsidizes gasoline:

Even after subsidies were partly lifted last month, a gallon of gas in China costs only $3.40, well below market prices.

I don't get the "well below" part but never mind that.

Matt Yglesias chimes in:

... the world would be a much better place if the money spent on this [subsidy] was left in people's pockets or directed at something productive.

True, visiting grandma is not terribly "productive," unlike, say, blogging at The Atlantic.

The Christian Science Monitor tells us

In China, the government caps gas prices [...] The result? Consumption keeps rising, boosting global prices. The rest of the world -- the part now racing to conserve -- is paying more than it should. Unfair? Yes ...

Two facts:

1. Measured in purchasing power, the price of gas in china is actually 30 dollars a gallon.

2. California (pop: 37 million) consumes more gas than all of China (pop: 1.3 billion)!

But, when in doubt, blame the Chinese!

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at July 29, 2008 01:33 PM

When I was 18 gas was a quarter a gallon and I made $1.25 or 5 gallons per hour.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 29, 2008 02:18 PM

20th century thinking: regime change to guarantee that other countries sell us cheap oil.

21st century thinking: regime change to guarantee that other countries don't use up all the cheap oil before we can.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at July 29, 2008 03:22 PM


Yglesias has an odd view on what counts as "productive". While "visits to grandma's" may be one use for subsidized gas, it's mostly another useful area for Chinese economic growth. The Chinese government has decided that their economy needs to be a consumer economy - they're going to need to sell things to each other when the US disappears as a sales target. Cheap gasoline fueled that transformation in the US (the American auto industry is THE classic example of "selling things to one another"), and the Chinese are using it in a similar fashion to the way that the US did.

Matt may think there are "more useful" things they could be spending their money on (though that's not what his phrasing would indicate), but leaving it in "people's pockets" is kind of an absurd statement - does he have a clue about how the Chinese economy even works? I'm only a layman and I can recognize the absurdity of that statement.

Posted by: NonyNony at July 29, 2008 03:27 PM

When in doubt, blame California.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 29, 2008 08:56 PM

Mike: I publicly blame California.
Next thing you know, there's an earthquake.
Draw your own conclusions!

PS hope mike, rob, robert, and all out in cali are ok.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 29, 2008 09:21 PM

Man next thing you know they'll be subsidizing their agriculture!!

Posted by: Mark at July 29, 2008 11:15 PM

In the U.S., we don't really subsidize gas. Unless there is a drop of corn ethanol in it, of course. In that case, sure.

Anyone wonder why the price of corn is so high? (Hint: China!)

Posted by: FutureDave at July 30, 2008 08:38 AM

U.S. Energy Bill Showers Tax Breaks on Oil Drillers, Utilities

By Jim Efstathiou Jr.

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- The energy bill Congress is set to pass today will spread $14.5 billion in tax breaks among hundreds of U.S. companies.

Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and other oil and gas producers get incentives to drill wells in the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Utilities including Southern Co. and American Electric Power Co. gain support for building coal and nuclear plants, and power-line owners such as American Transmission Co. benefit from tax changes. A mandate to boost the amount of corn- based ethanol in gasoline aids Archer Daniels Midland Co.

``There are a lot of pigs at the trough and the pigs got fat,'' said Philip Verleger, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics in Washington. ``It's the way politics works in the United States.''

Oh, but we don't really subsidize gas.


Posted by: AlanSmithee at July 30, 2008 09:49 AM

"Anyone know offhand how much oil product the armed services are blowing through running missions over Iraq?"

I read somewhere the consumption of fuel by the US Armed Forces (therefore not just Iraq) amounted to roughly 20-25% of the country's "needs".

Posted by: l.rodrigues at July 30, 2008 09:51 AM

I guess it only counts as a subsidy if it is aimed at the retail price.

The funny thing about China's plans is that they will be exactly where we are in about sixty years.

Posted by: Seth at July 30, 2008 11:13 AM

don't have a link, sorry.... but I read recently that the US military - if it was a separate country - would rank 38th in a list of all countries in oil/gas consumption.

In short, our military uses A LOT of oil!!

Posted by: Susan at July 30, 2008 05:25 PM

IOZ: Holy Knesset, what a lovely place.

SanFranSicko causes many earthquakes, yes. But I think it's a little unfair to credit homosexuals with ALL the earthquakes. That part of the "homosexual agenda" is shared by many heterosexuals. There's enough earth to quake for everyone, all right?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 30, 2008 06:39 PM
-But, when in doubt, blame the Chinese!

-As everyone knows, homosexuals cause earthquakes.

It has come to my attention that the right wing of any nation spawned mostly by Europeans has never, in the history of fucking time, found any significant malign phenomenon, anthropological or natural, secular or sacred, to be the full and complete fault of straight white males, ever. Not. Fucking. Once.

To pull the "universal rightwinger" theme of the previous thread into this (a better term might be Thom Hartmann's "con" for this particular kind of conservatism, or just aristocratic backer), a rightwing populace has always found that ever problem it has ever had that has human agency (and some that don't!) is the cause of one or more individuals outside of itself.

You'd think it would just become fucking tedious.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 31, 2008 09:46 AM