August 5, 2006
This is an interesting and topical letter that was published in The Age.
John Howard says of high petrol prices: "Everybody's got the problem, America's got it, Europe's got it, Asia's got it." Notice he did not include Middle Eastern countries, which are sitting on oceans of oil. In fact, Saudi Arabia cut the price of its petrol by 33 per cent in May to about 21 cents a litre.
If Australian governments had shown leadership over the past 20 years, most of us would be driving natural gas-powered vehicles rather than gloating over huge contracts with China and Japan to whom we give gas for a few cents a litre. Instead, we have a handful of cars and some public buses running on the fuel that is, to us, what oil is to other countries.
Mr Howard and his predecessors have not displayed the leadership needed to put relentless pressure on car makers to develop affordable natural gas cars and to stand up to the oil companies that resist that course. The oil companies' political clout, combined with the readiness of Mr Howard to follow George Bush into the Middle East to protect America's (and Exxon's) thirst for oil, makes the quest for a solution elusive. Not utilising our abundant natural gas is like the Saudis driving on $2-a-litre ethanol made from date peel.