How do I love the gas companies? Let me count the ways

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Recently, the GOOD website printed up GOOD Sheet #4, a nice graph of where the money given to gas stations goes. (GOOD defies description, but it's pretty good. Check it out.) Hard-copies of the sheet are available at Starbucks, but interested viewers can find an online copy here.

It's worth checking out: in a clear, easy-to-read manner, GOOD shows how the profit on gas is distributed and outlines the major factors that drive price. What it doesn't cover, however, is the ways that oil-producing companies actually use this money. Unfortunately, this is also the most important aspect of the oil market.

Oil is, perhaps, the most effective tool for wealth consolidation in the history of the world. Whether through technological innovation, conflict, or the luck of the draw, certain areas and people have ended up with large amounts of crude petroleum at their disposal.Using the incredible profits generated by this resource, some have carved cities out of the desert, given massive benefits to their citizens, or funded huge infrastructure projects. On the other hand, some have used oil profits to undermine democracy, wage wars, and fund terrorism. Regardless, the political power that petroleum gives to oil producing countries enables them to buy moral silence from the rest of the world. For example, as an increasingly undemocratic Soviet Unio um, Russia invaded Georgia, a militaristic Venezuela threatened war against Columbia, and a corrupt Saudi Arabia has funded radical Islamic clerics, the United States has had little to offer beyond stiff rhetoric and mealy-mouthed platitudes about freedom and responsibility.

Ultimately, America's devotion to the sweet flaming nectar of the earth makes it impossible for US leaders to launch any sort of substantive offensive against the people who supplying America's lifeblood. After all, Putin, Chavez, and the House of Saud control the flow of oil into the United States; frankly, any sort of serious attack on their policies might lead to a significant increase in the price of that commodity.

As effective as GOOD Sheet #4 is at outlining the tangible cost of gas, it misses the larger price that America pays for its petroleum addiction. In addition to dollars and cents, petroleum also costs the US its moral leadership, freedom of speech, and sovereignty!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's currently working on trying to develop "Democracy Windmills," but people keep comparing him to Don Quixote.

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