Elaine Storkey's Thought For The Day - 27th September 2000

On the Petrol Crisis

The following was Elaine Storkey's Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4 on 27th September 2000. I thought it was excellent, so asked her if I could put it on the web, so that everyone may benefit. Here it is (I have taken the liberty of putting the main points of her argument as bullets, for readability):

Good morning,

The petrol crisis is on the Conference agenda, and the great theme, pushed strongly by the Tabloids, is listening to the people. This is obviously a very good thing. In any democracy people ought to be listened to. Yet, it leaves the people a big responsibility. We have to make sure what we say is carefully thought through, and not merely thoughtless.

So how should we think about pricing petrol?

So, thought could lead to the conclusion that the best course is to allow the price to go up, preferably more by taxation than through the suppliers' market power. And with a bit more thought we could decide that, because oil is a precious resource and you can't run your car on coal dust, stewardship of God's creation requires us to guard it with a high price. That way, there will be some left for our children and grandchildren.

All of this is thought, not difficult, but thought none the less. And Thought for the Day is committed to thought.

But the reaction of the British public seems the opposite. We want the price down, and we want it down now. Obviously, there are some people who are heavily dependent on petrol and their problems need to be addressed as specific cases. But it would appear that everybody wants cheaper petrol, even if that means a more acute shortage and even higher prices in the future. We want to be listened to, even if what we say has disastrous implications for sustainability and ecology. This seems to me to be thoughtless: driving our cars like headless chickens.

There's a passage in the New Testament where Jesus has a go at thoughtlessness. He says,

'Look, when you see a cloud rising in the West, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain' and it does. You know how to interpret the weather. So how come you don't know how to interpret the present time?'

His answer is not because people can't, but because they won't. His listeners were so caught up in the present that they couldn't think about God or future judgement. And today, if we won't think through the price of petrol, we're probably not going to be strong on the bigger issues of life, either. Now, unlike Jesus, I have no divine authority, and these views on petrol are only my thoughts. But I am part of the people, so I'll toss them in. And thanks for listening.

Elaine Storkey

Copyright (c) Elaine Storkey 2000.
Prepared for the web and hosted by Andrew Basden.

Another thought.