Oil just passed the $106 mark, putting it well above the inflation-adjusted record set just a few days ago. In an earlier post, I predicted that the price of oil would go down. So far I have obviously been wrong, although I suspect that the price will decline by the end of the year since this seems awfully like a part of the greater speculative commodity bubble we are witnessing.

But putting that aside for a moment, there is one great benefit of the high price of oil that environmentalists should be celebrating: it is making alternative energy much more attractive, so much so that the high price may usher in a major wave of renewable energy projects that will, in turn, lead to greater scale economies and perhaps the mainstreaming of alternative energy. This would be a great thing.

Now for the bad part. First off, if politicians hadn’t been so cowardly and short-sighted and had actually followed economists’ advice for a carbon tax long ago, the high prices of energy could be funneled into tax rebates for us all or research and development for all sorts of green technologies. Instead, the money is going to the oil companies and the terrorists. Not good.

Second, the high prices of energy are leading to inflation, which is greatly complicating the Federal Reserve’s ability to deal with the recession we’re in (yes, it’s a recession), and the effects are highly regressive, hurting the poor much more than the rich.

Overall, the high price of energy is doing some pretty bad things — but if it can help tilt the playing field to alternative energy, this silver lining may end up being an amazing turning point in history.