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Get that Gasoline (or not)

Posted on 2004.06.05 at 07:59
How I feel about it all: contemplativecontemplative
Soundtrack: NPR Morning Edition (now with Pledge Drive!)
Am I the only one who's actually glad that the price of gas is going up in the US? I hope it keeps going up, or at least doesn't go down.

Yeah, I know, people are going to have problems maintaining their car expenses. Getting to work is going to be more expensive; our pocketbooks are going to be hit hard. But.

People are going to start combining trips, carpooling, taking public transportation. There'll be more walking, more biking, less getting in the car just to drive around the corner.

Higher gas prices will force car makers to change, as well. Just like in the 70s, and just like in so many countries around the world, cars might get smaller. And that lovely, lovely thing, the hybrid car, will become more and more the norm, until the gas-guzzler is the rare car and the cleaner, cheaper-to-operate hybrid will be what most people drive. Maybe the American cult of the car will start to break up a little.

I know some of you are saying, "but it's going to be such a hardship!" Yeah, it is, for awhile. But it'll be even more of a hardship when the air we take for granted becomes too toxic to breathe, when the last wilderness is eaten up by drilling, when we're all dying of COPD and lung cancer because we can't separate ourselves from our big hunks of steel. Yeah, I'm glad gas prices are going up; you won't hear me complain about it, ever.


This rant was brought to you by my finally listening to NPR again after a couple of weeks of burying my head in the sand avoiding it.


Yeah, I know. My icon is irony itself.

Comments:


Ten O'Clock Medievalist
tarimanveri at 2004-05-06 05:34 (UTC) ()
I have to say, I could not agree more.
is it wrong to wish on space hardware?
greenapricot at 2004-05-06 05:44 (UTC) ()
I was just having a conversation to this affect with a friend of mine the other day. It seems that the only way things are going to change for the better (more efficient cars) with Bush in office is if they're forced to by outside sources (higher gas prices). The so called leader isn't leading so the leadership has to come in the form of coercion from outside sources. Which is to say, I agree completely.
the day you left was just my beginning
patchfire at 2004-05-06 06:19 (UTC) ()
I know someone (who actually calls himself a conservative, but that's another story) who has maintained since sometime in 1995 that the Powers That Be in Detriot and elsewhere know how to make a reliable purely electric car, but that the influence of the oil companies is so great that they've been forced to sit on their plans. I think that's highly likely.

Here's the problem I have with the current gas gouging. It's exactly that - gouging. There is no way that on Sunday gas is cheap enough to get it for 1.599, and then on Monday suddenly the price has gone up So Much that I must pay 1.659. Nevermind that it's the same gas and they haven't gotten another shipment in. I have a problem with enriching the gas companies.

There was a report on cnn.com a few weeks ago about how most gas stations were seeing one to two drive-offs per month, and now they are seeing three to four per week. The typical offender is working class who has no other option for transportation to work.

And that's really the crux of the issue. Public transport, in most places that I know of, is vile. If you get very far outside an urban area, it's nonexistent. The people with the gas guzzling SUVs will just keep paying the higher prices, because they can afford to. The working class people who have tried and tried to find alternatives have to keep paying it and taking the money out of other areas.

So I do think it's good that people are forced to take a look at their gas expenditures, and combine trips, and whatnot. It's just that for a large percentage of the population, they can't afford to buy more fuel-efficient cars, they can't find carpools (ask me how I know!), and the money has to come from somewhere.

As advanced as computers are, I think every person fueling up ought to enter the make and model and year of their vehicle, and the computer ought to calculate a gas price based on the gas mileage of their vehicle (and how new it is). Let the driver of a Suburban or an Expedition or a H2 or a Land Rover pay close to $2. But let the person who's still driving a 1985 clunker have a bit of a break. I'm sure they wouldn't be driving it if they didn't have to be.
meg
meggitymeg at 2004-05-06 06:27 (UTC) ()
As advanced as computers are, I think every person fueling up ought to enter the make and model and year of their vehicle, and the computer ought to calculate a gas price based on the gas mileage of their vehicle (and how new it is). Let the driver of a Suburban or an Expedition or a H2 or a Land Rover pay close to $2. But let the person who's still driving a 1985 clunker have a bit of a break.

As someone whose family owned, up until last month, an '89 Ford pickup, a '90 Ford Probe, an '88 Ford Taurus (complete lemon, there), and an '84 Ford Crown Vic station wagon - all bought used and all ranging from 140K-nearly 250K miles (and who would have thought Fords would have lasted that long - we really know how to milk our vehicles!), I think this is an *excellent* idea. God knows the people who can't afford a car payment, or have to rotate insurance coverage on a couple of vehicles at a time, because they can't afford to cover all four, even with four adults with jobs who need to drive to different places to get to work - we deserve at least that much.

*steps down from soapbox*
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-05-06 13:22 (UTC) ()
Maybe subsidies are an answer. I mean, someone with low income can buy a house/pay rent/by groceries that are subsidized by the gov't. Why not gas stamps, or something?

Also, I'm pretty sure that tax credits are already being given for purchasing hybrids. And, shock of all shocks, there is now a Hybrid SUV. What I'd like to see is some regulation that would make it illegal to make any car BUT a hybrid.
the day you left was just my beginning
patchfire at 2004-05-06 13:47 (UTC) ()
The problem with subsidies on the level of food stamps and subsidized housing is the sheer number of people who fall through the cracks. There was a story on CNN a few weeks ago (and elsewhere, IIRC) about a program where schools send backpacks full of food home with their students. Their families don't qualify for food stamps; some of them do qualify for free lunch - but the point is, someone had to step in, outside the government, and start giving these kids enough food to survive the weekends.

Beyond that, food stamps are a very limited selection, and I can see it now - if you are poor, you can only drive to work, even if you have a little of money to go to a movie. But if you're rich, you can drive wherever you want to. No, no, no. It's bad enough that women are actively discouraged from breastfeeding by WIC programs, and other problems.

And it's a nice thought that only hybrids will be made. It's one I support, actually, because it means that the people who endanger me on the roads with their oversized vehicles are at least not endangering the earth so badly with their extra 3/4/5/6 seats that they never use, but everyone had an SUV!

It still doesn't change the fact that people who can't afford a new car, who have to wait for used cars to trickle down, who have to buy whatever they can afford at the time they need a car - the people who don't qualify for government assistance, who work hard, the very definition of the words working poor and working class - it doesn't change that they have less money to spend on groceries this much, because some oil executive is laughing on the way to the bank. It doesn't change that Cheney's up there rubbing his hands together and cackling because all his buddies are getting rich, and they'll give him a good kickback and a cush job as soon as he's not veep anymore (who cares if it's 2005 or 2009, if you're Cheney!).

And the gas prices aren't going to go back down. Even if they could, the American people will have paid these prices, because they either had to, or they didn't care, and so when prices of crude oil drop even farther down, the oil magnates are going to pocket even more money.

So I'll keep hoping gas prices go back down.
the day you left was just my beginning
patchfire at 2004-05-06 13:54 (UTC) ()

Also

People are going to start combining trips, carpooling, taking public transportation. There'll be more walking, more biking, less getting in the car just to drive around the corner.

Our society has been based, as you put it, on the 'cult of the car' for so long that this isn't going to happen, because in so many places, it can't. Combining trips? Sure, but then I think people already do that. Carpooling? People do it when they can, but it's not as easy as itlooks. Taking public transport? Ask me about trying to get Sam to work when we only had one care.

Most driving, at least where I live, isn't to drive around the corner. It's to drive the multiple miles necessary to get to basic shops. Even in a dense suburban area (where I am), there's little I can walk to comfortably. A church is a five minute walk, and that's the closest. I can get ice cream and books with some effort. :) But our pattern of building is so tied to the car that for many, many people, there aren't viable alternatives to their car.


And then there would be convincing all the people down here who know there's only two things you can count on - land, and your car. I contend this is merely an outgrowth of having horses. Land, and your horse, morphed to land, and your car. And that's cultural, baybee. 150 years on, even if most people don't realise why they think they do.

If you follow the history of tea drinking in the United States, a similar cultural phenomeon affected by a war, then in another four score and seven years (give or take), we may begin to see some dissassociation of the idea, and something equivalent to the current upsurge in tea drinking.
zeus55
zeus55 at 2004-05-06 06:54 (UTC) ()

It's A Nice Dream...

Your sentiments are nice, but it will never come to pass that Americans jump onto the hybrid bandwagon. In addition high gasoline prices are very harmful to the elderly and the poor.

Secondly, in the gas crunch of the 1970's, the American auto industry was nearly destroyed by the "smaller is better" mantra. It because of this panic to buy cheaper-to-run cars that Chrysler had to beg for a federal bail out. Too many folks have forgotten that Chrysler paid it all back early, but also revolutionized the auto industry by making smaller, more efficient and sound cars. In the 70's, the imports (except for the high line imports, such as Mercedes, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar) were basically rolling trash cans. I worked for an auto dealer during the time, and customers who had purchased a foreign car to save on gas, ended up paying more in repairs than they would have paid in gas.

Thirdly, the American consumer will NEVER give up comfort for economy. We expect both.

Therefore, I believe that the course of action should be to levy a large tax, over and above the "gas guzzler surcharge" currently assessed on SUVs, Lincoln, Cadillac, Etc. Consumers who purchase cars that fall within the Federally mandated gas mileage guidelines should receive a tax credit, paid for by the tax on cars that fall outside the Federal guidelines.

Public transportation will never be a good solution, since in many parts of the country there is no system in place, and the Federal government, states and cities will not spend the money to build an entire system.

Higher gasoline prices are bad the American consumer. They only benefit the big oil companies.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-05-06 13:25 (UTC) ()

Re: It's A Nice Dream...

Therefore, I believe that the course of action should be to levy a large tax, over and above the "gas guzzler surcharge" currently assessed on SUVs, Lincoln, Cadillac, Etc. Consumers who purchase cars that fall within the Federally mandated gas mileage guidelines should receive a tax credit, paid for by the tax on cars that fall outside the Federal guidelines.

Good idea. I think this is happening with hybrids, only I don't know how the credit is being paid for.
Evie
phoenixw at 2004-05-06 09:23 (UTC) ()
I think it's a great thing. I just heard a report about why Japan uses so much less energy than the US and basically it comes down to the fact that electricity is about twice as expensive there. Necessity really is the mother of invention.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-05-06 13:27 (UTC) ()
Yep. This is exactly my point. Other countries have done it, so I don't believe for a second that it's impossible to do. Japan, England, so many have successfully cut their energy consumption, mostly (I believe) because it benefits them financially to do so.
I am the man that makes the bhaji go away
malachan at 2004-05-07 04:42 (UTC) ()
I agree. I don't quite buy the 'car culture' argument. The car culture didn't arise from nowhere and it isn't continued just because. Economic factors (cheap fuel, in this case) so often underpin cultural phenomena. So change the economics, and the culture adapts.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2004-05-07 14:40 (UTC) ()
God, I hope so.
Marie Antoinette's pastry slave
mark356 at 2004-05-06 15:05 (UTC) ()
I agree, too.
Loony Loopy Lea Lovegood
chickadilly at 2004-05-07 22:02 (UTC) ()
I both do and don't agree abotu this. Don't mainly for (I admit) selfish reasons. Quite frankly paying over $2.50 for a gallon of gas pisses me off to no end. Especially since I have NO CHOICE but to drive to classes everyday and it takes me an hour and a half ONE WAY to get to where I have to go. (Which means I have to fill my tank about twice a week ... and I have decent mileage on the car ... )

I'm only making minimum wage right now. There goes about half of my $$ intake for the week right there.

On the other hand WORD about the environmental concerns. I wish (Oh how I wish) California had decent public transportation the way you do in the East. As it is ... from my house to downtown San Diego it's about a 20 to 25 minute drive (in good traffic) but if I took public transportation it would take me 2 and a half hours to get there. It just isn't practical.

If I could take public trans to class every day I'd do it in a heartbeat. Not have to deal with traffic from hell and be able to curl up on a train with a newspaper? Hell Yeah.

So. I'm mixed on it. I'm getting screwed because I have no choice but to spend half my income on my gas tank right now ... but if it eventually gets something done about some sort of decent public trans here ... then in the long run it will have been a good thing.

But I really do hate being broke all the time.
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