The entire conversation about the price of oil lacks something, perhaps the honesty to look for blame beyond the traders and the politicians.

It’s just too convenient to shoot the guy closest to the end of the gun.

If we dig in a little, we find that it might not be about supply and demand; it might not be about speculators, or about cutting back on consumption; and it might not be about better gas mileage, sacrifice or efficiency.

It may be about not using oil at all for some things.

Oil is not subject to the rules that form the foundation of the American economic system. The mistake may be that we somehow think that the rest of the world follows the same rules we do. They don’t.

For the oil sellers, it’s a one-time deal. They sell as little as possible and sell it for as much as possible because they can sell it only once. When they run out they are out, finished, empty, kaput, done.

So those who have this scarce commodity will charge as much as they can for it while they have it.

I am not sure that I have this proven, but for a minute, follow me.

Those who have oil in the ground needed it to be selling for least a $100 per barrel a few months ago. Why? We are using less oil, and that’s why it costs $110 per barrel today.

Fractured logic? Well, maybe not.

The rulers of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and the rest of the major oil producers influenced by OPEC, need about $100 per barrel to balance their countries’ expenditures. Many of these countries’ rulers lavish gifts on their loyal subjects to ensure their continued enjoyment of absolute power.

I’ve heard that Dubai has an odd distinction: Per capita, its residents have more Bentleys, Aston Martins and similar high-priced vehicles than any other geopolitical place in the world.

The Russians need oil sales just to keep their budgets in balance and keep the lights on in the Kremlin. It also helps fuel the Soyuz rockets that occasionally take us up the international space station.

When we use less oil, the suppliers sell fewer gallons.

We would expect our fuel oil bill to go down if we reduce our heating oil consumption by say 30 percent by insulating our houses, caulking every crack, lowering the thermostat to 60 degrees or less, (actually I like 60 although my roommate does not) and taking brief showers every other day.

The bill doesn’t get lower, though. The increasing cost per gallon more than makes up for what we saved in gallons used.

The price of a barrel of oil has soared in the last 24 months. The sellers pump less oil and have even more revenue. And they have another reason to be happy we use less heating oil: They have more left to pump at even higher prices.

This may be a bit folksy, and I might be a little loose with my facts, but it’s my theory, and I confirm it by looking at the price of oil.

For people who want a supply-and-demand answer, try this: “For every gallon we don’t use, the Chinese will.” China is the fastest-growing economy on Earth.

I’d like to pretend oil cost $200 per barrel. At that price, heating oil and gas might be $10 per gallon, and then we’d act. Everyone would drive vehicles that got at least 40 mpg, trucks would run on natural gas, homes would heat with renewable fuels.

We’d replace every energy-guzzling item we could with highly efficient products. And the best part: We’d be creating new manufacturing jobs here, new technologies here and exporting products to the world.

This could drive our economy for decades.

I started this with a comment about honesty. Oil costs about $110 per barrel today because the sellers are playing by their rules. More importantly, the longer we keep buying oil the deeper in we get.

If we are fat, we can eat smart and exercise. Becoming energy independent is like getting in shape before we get a heart attack.

It’s time for new rules.

Leslie B. Otten of Bethel was one of six unsuccessful Republican candidates in the race for governor in 2010. He is the former owner and founder of American Skiing Co. and a former minority owner of the Boston Red Sox. Email at [email protected]

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