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『华盛顿邮报』美国人对油价的五大误解  

2011-04-22 09:46:39|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Five myths about gas prices

华盛顿邮报:美国人对于油价的五大误解

Gasoline prices have been steadily climbing for several months, and Americans are feeling the pain at the pump. The possible culprits (from greedy oil execs toMideast turmoil) are as plentiful as the proposed solutions (more offshore drilling, green energy or government reserves). But what is really driving prices up? And what, if anything, can be done about it? Let’s take a moment to fill up on information about our fuel.
汽油价格几个月来都在持续攀升,美国人在加油的时候都能感到一阵心疼。对此可供指责的对象繁多(从贪婪的石油大亨到正在进行的中东风暴),专家们提出来的解决方案也一样不少(比如增加海上矿井的开采、更多绿色能源以及政府的介入等)。但油价上涨的背后推手到底是什么呢?而我们可以采取的应对之策又究竟是什么呢?让我们花点时间来真正认识一下燃油这件事吧:

1. Fighting in Libya is sending gas prices higher.

误解一:利比亚战争导致石油价格上涨

Libya is not a big enough global oil supplier for the battles there to have a meaningful effect on gas prices. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Libya was a major U.S. supplier, selling us around 700,000 barrels of oil per day. But today, we import less than 50,000 barrels per day from Libya — a tiny fraction of the 9.2 million barrels per day the United States imported in 2010. Worldwide, the story is no different: Of the 86 million barrels consumed globally each day, less than 2 percent come from Moammar Gaddafi’s regime.

So why are gas prices up? Though Gaddafi’s fate is largely irrelevant to the oil market, unrest throughout the greater Middle East is not. The Persian Gulf region produces almost 24 million barrels of oil per day, more than 25 percent of global oil consumption. The Arab spring that has brought protests to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen makes markets nervous, and when markets fret over a possible disruption to oil supplies, gas prices rise — whether the disruption materializes or not.

事实上利比亚在全球石油供应国中只是小弟弟,那里的战争并不足以决定石油的价格走向。在上世纪70、80年代,利比亚确实曾经是美国石油的主要供应国,每天都大约有70万桶原油从那里卖到美国。但时至今日利比亚就只占美国石油来源中的很小一部分了,2010年美国每天进口的920万桶原油中只有不到5万桶来自利比亚。在世界范围内也是如此。全球每年消耗的8600万桶原油中只有不到2%来自卡扎菲政权。

那么油价上涨跟利比亚有没有关系呢?当然也有。虽然利比亚对油价影响不大,但其所在的中东整体却主宰着全球石油价格的走向。整个波斯湾地区每天出产将近2400万桶石油,占到了全球总量的25%以上。席卷阿拉伯世界的革命浪潮已经让市场感到了紧张气氛。油价的上涨正反映了市场对中东地区可能发生的石油中断输出的忧虑。

2. Tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a smart way to reduce gas prices.

误解二:要降低油价,动用美国政府的战略石油储备是个良策。

The U.S. government maintains a 727 million-barrel oil reserve — 38 days’ worth at current levels of consumption — to protect against potential supply disruptions. But just about every time prices rise, politicians want to access the oil in the reserve to increase supply and bring prices back down. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), for instance, has been calling for oil releases from the SPR for more than a decade.In a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1999, he endorsed the release of several hundred thousand barrels a day from the SPR because, according to a news release about the letter, oil prices had made a “meteoric ascent to nearly $25 per barrel.”

Had Clinton dipped into the reserve then, as Schumer requested, we almost certainly would have gotten a raw deal. What if that $25-per-barrel oil could be replenished only at $75 per barrel? Tapping the SPR makes the government an oil speculator, and any nation running record deficits that becomes a commodity trader is playing a dangerous game.

The SPR exists to buy time in a true supply emergency. If we use it as a political tool to keep voters happy by stemming rising gas prices, we may be forced to buy back oil at even higher prices, or we may be left with an insufficient supply in a real crisis.

为应对可能的油荒,美国政府一直储备有7.27亿桶石油,可供应全国38天的石油需求。也因为如此,几乎每次油价有所上涨就会有政客要求政府动员这一石油储备以下压油价。在1999年就有参议员致信当时的总统克林顿要求他开放储备,理由是“油价很快就要接近25美元一桶”了。

要是当时克林顿听取了这一建议,那么美国政府可就是赔大了。因为很快油价就成了75美元一桶,要补齐战略储备,美国政府必将面临重大赤字。

战略石油储备的存在是为了真正生死存亡的关头,而不是遏制油价讨好选民的工具。要是在油价上涨过程中动用,就必然会面临在高价时补仓的需要,这才是真正的不合算。

3. Oil companies produce less in the spring to make gas prices increase.

误解三:石油公司在春天会限制产量以抬高油价

Almost every year, gasoline prices rise in the spring. At the same time, refineries produce less fuel. This isn’t because oil companies want to keep inventories low to drive prices higher. It’s because what’s in our gasoline — specifically, butane — changes from season to season.

Butane is a cheap ingredient in gasoline that boils at low temperatures. In winter, this isn’t a problem. But in summer, butane evaporates from gas, polluting the air while leaving us with less fuel in the tank than we paid for. As temperatures rise, refineries replace butane with more costly ingredients and draw down winter inventories just as beach season begins.

Chemistry, not corporate conspiracy, limits supply.

确实每年春天油价就会上涨,同一时期炼油厂的出产下降也是事实。但这并不是因为石油公司想抑制出产抬高油价,而是因为燃油中的主要成分之一丁烷会随季节变化而变化。

丁烷是燃油中会在低温时燃烧的廉价成分。在冬天毫无问题,但到了夏天,燃油中的丁烷会随气温升高而挥发,同一价钱买到的燃油也就少了很多。因此每到春夏交接的时候炼油厂就要放弃丁烷,而使用更为昂贵的成分代替,同时还没卖完的含丁烷燃油也会被存起来降温后再卖。

因此,是化学现象,而不是石油公司的阴谋导致了春天的供应不足。

4. The Obama administration is driving up gas prices.

误解四:奥巴马政府推动了燃油价格的上涨

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says EPA regulations are a “back-door national energy tax”that pushes prices up. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin says the White House drilling moratorium shows President Obama’s “culpability in the high gas prices hurting Americans.”

Blaming the president for rising gas prices is nothing new, and it’s a bipartisan tactic. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) blamed President George W. Bush for higher gas prices and for continuing to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as oil prices climbed.

Just one problem: Even if domestic supplies were developed, American presidents couldn’t really control oil prices. The U.S. government has estimated that there are 18 billion barrels of oil in the outer continental shelf of the lower 48 states that are off limits to development. That may sound like a lot, but it is only about 21 / 2 years of supply for the United States, and it would take several years to allocate leases and drill exploratory wells. Even if the estimated 10 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were available for development, today’s policy decisions would have no impact on gasoline supplies for as much as a decade. Obama can’t dictate what you’ll pay for premium tomorrow.

参议员Mitch McConnell认为环保局的“国家能源税”是导致油价上涨的幕后黑手之一。前阿拉斯加州长佩林也认为白宫通过的禁钻令是奥巴马“推动高油价,伤害美国人民”的罪证。

把石油价格的上涨归罪于总统并不是什么新鲜事,而是两党之争中常见的战术。2004年麻州参议员John Kerry就将油价上涨归罪于当时的总统布什,认为他的持续补充石油战略储备对高油价雪上加霜。

但问题是,即使总统可以影响美国国内的石油产量,也不能真正控制石油价格。据美国政府估算,被限制开发的48个州立共有大约180亿桶石油的储备。这个数字听起来很多,但事实上不过只能满足美国2年半的石油需求,而且还要考虑到这些石油需要几年的时间才能真正采出来。即使加上北极国家野生动物保护区里的100亿桶的预估产量,限制开采的禁令也不可能在十年内影响油价。换而言之,奥巴马的决定不可能左右你明天的油价。

5. Americans can’t live without cheap gas.

误解五:没有廉价汽油,美国人就活不下去了

Americans love to drive, and Americans love cheap gas. But across an ocean, there’s a continent filled with people a lot like us who’ve lived with high gas prices for years. They’re called Europeans.

While U.S. gasoline heads toward $4 per gallon, Europeans have been paying much higher prices for years because of high taxes on fuel. This month in Britain, gas hit 6 pounds, or about $9.76, per gallon. Because gas is so dear, Europe’s per capita energy use is half that of the United States, leaving Europe less vulnerable to oil price shocks yet not undermining its citizens’ standard of living.

The United States, built on cheap oil, is much less densely populated than the Old World, with more wide-open spaces to traverse. But that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace some of the things that have helped Europeans keep their gasoline bills down — such as high-speed rail, public transportation and green energy.

In fact, Americans have shown that they can adjust their behavior when faced with sticker shock at the pump. As gas prices rose from $2.31 per gallon in 2005 to $3.30 per gallon in 2008, sales of the Toyota Prius eclipsed those of the Ford Explorer, and public transit use reached a 50-year high.

美国人确实喜欢开车,也需要廉价的汽油。但在大洋彼岸,有一个大陆上挤满了跟我们一样的人,而他们的高油价已经存在了好多年了。那些人就是欧洲人。

当美国人看着油价慢慢升到4美元一加仑的时候,欧洲人支付更高的油价已经有好几年了,他们的燃油税比我们高多了。这个月英国的油价是每加仑6英镑,约合9.76美元。由于高油价,欧洲人的人均能源消耗量只有美国人的一半。也因为如此,油价上涨对欧洲人生活的影响远远没有那么大。

美国是一个建立在廉价汽油基础上的国家,人口密集度远远低于欧洲,有更广阔的空间可供行驶。但这并不代表说我们就不能引入一些欧洲对高油价的应对之策,比如说高速铁路、公共交通和绿色能源。

事实上,美国人已经显示了自己对高油价的灵活性。随着油价从2005年的2.31美元一加仑涨到了2008年的3.3美元一加仑,丰田的电动汽车普锐斯销量也随之大增,公共交通工具的使用率也达到了50年来的新高。

Robert Rapier is the chief technology officer of Merica International, a privately-owned renewable energy company, and writes for Consumer Energy Report.

作者:Robert Rapier,可再生能源公司Merica的首席技术总监,也是消费者能源报告的撰稿人。

原文链接:华盛顿邮报

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