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April 26, 2006

Why We Need Higher Gasoline Prices

President Bush was right. America is addicted to oil. So why are all us junkies complaining that our oily “fix” is too expensive? We chose our addiction, and either we pay up or go to rehab.
I’m so tired of watching news stories about drivers moaning about the price of fuel as they fill their SUV’s. You want to drive a tank? Pay for it!

Let’s put gas pricing in the proper perspective. A gallon of gas costs less than a latte grande at Starbucks, yet nobody complains about the caffeine cartel. It costs you less to go 20 or 25 miles in your car than you pay for a gallon of milk. Yet nobody’s moaning about rising price of moo-juice.

Think gas is pricey here? Travel abroad and see what the rest of the world pays for fuel. In Canada it’s US$ 5 per gallon, in Europe it’s US$ 6 per gallon. Admittedly, much of those prices is additional taxes (used to subsidize cheaper mass transit), but the result of those prices and taxes is greater fuel efficiency and less traffic.

According to the EPA, Fairfield County’s air is as dirty as LA’s, thanks in part to car and truck exhausts. Moms obsess about protecting their kids’ health by buying expensive organic milk, then drive to the supermarket in pollution machines.

Face it. Americans have been spoiled for years with cheap gas prices. So why are prices increasing now. Greed? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a matter of (limited) supply and (insatiable) demand.

Depending on whom you believe, we have maybe 50 years of oil left in the planet. And yet, nobody’s really doing anything to plan for our post-gasoline transportation needs. Even the few higher-mileage hybrid cars that are available still rely on gas.

Where’s the equivalent “put a man on the moon” R&D effort to produce a hydrogen-powered car, let alone an all-electric vehicle? Nowhere. Even motorists who’d buy such a car can’t find one to purchase.

Instead, we drive prestige autos worth more than a college tuition payment… and pay annual town taxes on those status symbols that are greater than the annual income of workers in the third world. And yet we have the nerve to complain about gas prices going up a few pennies at the pump?

Do you really believe we’ve sacrificed thousands of American lives in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq in the cause of democracy? In your heart of hearts, you know these wars are over oil; and our despot allies in Saudi Arabia know it, too.

As oil becomes scarcer, the Chinese demand becomes greater and drilling gets more precarious (as in Alaska’s ANWR), the only solution is to let gas prices move higher to encourage conservation. That should mean smaller cars, better use of fuel-efficient mass transit and, yes, less driving.

I’m neither a tree-hugger nor a Communist. I’m just trying to be realistic. Because I know that, in the long run, our grandchildren will curse us if the legacy we leave them is a gasoline-based transportation system we should have weaned ourselves from years ago.

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JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 14 years. He is Vice Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM. You can reach him at jim@camcomm.com or www.trainweb.org/ct

2 comments:

John Tiernan said...

-----Original Message-----
From: JPT [mailto:jptiernan@optonline.net]
Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 11:53 AM
To: Jim Cameron
Subject: Re: "Talking Transportation: Why we NEED Higher Gas Prices"


Jim,
You're correct as far as I'm concerned. One added note: We are denying entry of cheap ethanol from Brazil with--I think this is right--a 50% tariff. Meanwhile we're subsidizing Iowa corn-produced ethanol at about the same penalty. Our president was evasive or misinformed in yesterday's speech. Corn is one of the least efficient feedstocks for ethanol. Sugar cane, sugar beets, and various fast-growing grasses could produce this beautiful fuel at probably half the cost of corn. Brazil's car fleet is now about 80% ethanol powered and its air is remarkably cleaner than before.
John Tiernan

Anonymous said...

That makes SENSE!!
I'd love to see more/affordable mass transit; more non-gas-dependent autos... If a hybrid car were affordable, I would get one. I'm a single mom, so I have to rely on my current vehicle. Fortunately, it does get decent mileage and I conserve.

When I visited England in 2004, the mass transit was wonderfully inexpensive (approximately $8USD for a round trip from the village to the city and back -- quite a distance; and the train station was within walking distance of the village green) and the gasoline was the equivalent of about $9 US a gallon. Wow. The vehicles I saw in England were SMALL compared to American vehicles. I think the biggest SUV I saw was about the size of a Ford Bronco. The people I saw were using mass transit, bicycles, or their own feet, for the most part. Hmm.

We call ourselves a developed country, yet we have a lot to learn.

Thanks for a great article!!
Judy Conrad