Oil! Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole … –my favorite grade school poem, “Invictus,” says.

Remembrances of youth and a different world.

That one was of danger, dodging and possibilities. This one is of earthquakes, nuclear surprises, uprisings, and oil ascending, as all or most of us are still trying to make ends meet and keep food on the table.

Oil! Snatches of memories of “Dallas” and of J.R. and Bobby, and of the OPEC embargo that had people standing in line on their postcard-designated days to buy the petrol, product of the slimy stuff. At $4 dollars a gallon these days, who wants to remember oil fantasies?

Can’t they do something? Release the U.S. oil reserves in strategic places and times to knock down the prices. This uptick is killing me, you know. I–and we–are simply unprepared for this kind of roiling. It’s getting too expensive to go clubbing, shopping, looking and dining. And on top of it all, we may be getting stiffed.

No. 1, there are still American oil and gasoline companies that do not import the stuff from the Middle East. Their oil is homegrown, so to speak. These companies include Valero, Arco, Sunoco, Conoco, Hess, Murphy, Maverick and the Flying J.

Of these, we regularly see only Valero and Arco in California, and although they are generally cheaper than Mobil/Exxon, Shell, Unocal 76, and others, it’s not cheap enough. Even they will begin selling $4 gasoline within a week to 10 days if intervention does not come. But why? Are there some contracts out there that we don’t know about to keep all gasoline prices nearly the same, rather than the companies without the Middle East import charges and fees giving us gas at prices we can live with? Where are the pirate pumps? Give me decent oil and gas prices, or give me … a match?

There could be uprisings of a different kind out here, if somebody doesn’t get it soon.

There’s also news of huge land-based oil resources in North Dakota and Montana, especially in the Bakken Formation. The Internet paper making the rounds says there are estimates of 503 billion gallons in this area. The 2010 U.S. Geological Survey, however, says its 3.65 billion. That doesn’t overwhelm the Saudis, but it’s still a very large clump that we can use. There are also more oil deposits in the Austin Chalk formation in Texas and Louisiana, and several other locales in the U.S. None of these happen to be under the Gulf, the Mississippi, the Atlantic or the Pacific. We can get there in walking shoes. Why won’t we, and why don’t we now?

Black folk and others need gasoline relief, and they need it last week. The severe winter of a few days ago has seemingly subsided, but our energy demands, in and out of automobiles, remain unchanged. We are using up the planet, for sure, but right now worrying about global warming and the melting ice sheets doesn’t make much of a dent in our souls. We want and need pump relief.
Many youth and seniors have trouble making the bus fare and greasy food fees in our neighborhoods. When gas prices are up, it seems everything else is too. So, like with the unemployment rate, we need some downward rhythm–the beat of the streets speaking deep and serious about not breaking our back with this oil thing. We are trying hard to get up, to step up and to keep up, but the weight of the black stuff keeps climbing higher.

The new U.S. Census data on Black Californians did not help much either. We are clustered in too few places, and our money is not long in most of them. We live in more apartments than houses, and our educational achievements are skewed the wrong way; our overall population is falling backwards compared to other California groups, and we cling to outmoded political habits in order to keep a Black voice somewhere in the California mist.

But merely surviving is not our strength. We need to grow, to expand, to live and look larger.

Tribal oil is standing in our way, sucking us dry just as we were beginning to move forward again inch by grudging inch.

Why am I so Black and blue? Is it the air, my hair, or some oily goo? Me thinks we need to remember what a real boycott is. Maybe we should practice it a bit and remember when we did it well. Otherwise, a lot of us will have to find long-term parking for our shorties. Have car, won’t travel.

Maybe to bring the prices down, we have to strongly stand up. Hmmm.

Think fast. I mean gas, my people. Think gas.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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