Friday, April 28, 2006

$3 Gas

In a particulary interesting opinion/editorial on the rising gas prices and the recent political scurry to affect change at the pump. See "39 Million Reasons Why $3 Gas May Change America".

In short, the article claims that the increase at the pump is up from 10% to 15% of annual income for the 39 million American households making $30,000 a year or less. That's a painful pill to swallow.

The article goes on to contend that this problem has been a long time in the making and that "any meaningful energy policies will take years to unfold." I do not disagree with this.

The article then opines that Americans will likely have to simply get used to the new prices of gas. This is a stark change from the late 90's, early aughts, when gas was still $1.10, $1.15.... I remember complaining about the price of fuel then, too, when $1.15 seemed outlandish.

In addition to balking at the notion of simply "getting used to" the new gas prices, I am also a bit sick of emails comparing a gallon of gasoline to a gallon of Starbucks coffee. For starters, should anyone invent a vehicle that can run off of coffee, I would buy a cheaper brand than Starbucks, and I'd buy it in bulk from Sam's or Costco, and I'd grind the beans myself if it would save a significant amount of money. As would many of us.

Starbucks coffee is also not sold by the barrel out of Columbia by the bean equivalent of OPEC, controlling prices and availability. And coffee can be made with water. It doesn't need large or expensive equipment to refine the beans into ground coffee, doesn't need to be drilled out of the earth -- it can be grown in top soil. These factors alone should be sufficient enough to deter people from comparing gas to coffee. It is , however, an effective means of saying "quit complaining and just live with the price of gas... see how cheap it is by comparison?" Dear reader, please tell the "gallon of Starbucks" crowd to quit belaboring us with their message of price tolerance and submission to the powers that be.

There are things that John Q. Public can do to solve the problem at the pump both by decreasing the need for gas and by decreasing sales for the oil companies. And no, the author Botwinik does not mean by boycotting Exxon or Mobile for a day, a week, or a year (as is suggested in another email currently circulating).

These ideas may not be any more popular than the $3 a gallon gas, but they are ideas worth considering:
1. Consider selling that big SUV in for a smaller sedan that gets more than 16 mpg -- many get more than 30 in town and 35 on the highway!
2. Consider mass transit (where available), carpooling, buying a $2000 scooter that gets 70 + mpg, walking, or riding a bicycle.
3. Plan your outings. If you need sugar for a cake that you aren't baking until Friday, and by then you know you'll need to go to the bank with your check, drop off your suit at the cleaners, and pick up a rental movie, consider doing it all in one trip, logically planning the best route to eat up the least amount of miles or time spent at stop lights idling that engine.
4. Consider alternative fuels like biodiesel and ethanol where available and applicable. (Note: do not use biodiesel in a gas powered engine, and always check your owner's manual to see if and how much ethanol your engine can burn safely). There are plenty of sites out there dedicated to alternative fuels, bio-diesel and ethanol, and a quick Google search can yield lots of information. Get informed!

People have more power than they think, if they just think about the power they have! Buying a scooter may not change the price of fuel, but that 70 mpg will change how often you pay at the pump!

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