Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Fuel Prices...


I feel that I am more than qualified to speak on this topic as I'm one of the unfortunate many who must commute to work and do not have a mass transit option. This means I drive. A lot. I live in Yorktown, Indiana, near Muncie (cue the Close Encounters theme) and work in Indianapolis. My daily commute is 108 miles. At one time I drove a hand-me-down Buick Park Avenue (not my first choice but I can't argue with FREE CAR) that got a respectable-for-its-size 27mpg. One of my coworkers questioned my green cred for 1) driving a gas hog and 2) not living closer to work in the first place. After some defensive behaviour and rationalization, I realized he did have a good point, but there was only so much I could do to address it.

Here's what we did: In the summer of 2009 we sold the Park Avenue and traded in our other hand-me-down dog-hauler 1987 Chevy Astro under the "Cash for Clunkers" program for a 2010 Toyota Prius. I drive moderately and do as little extra driving as possible. I've halved my fuel use.

There is a lot of discussion about the price of fuel now. I'm not sure why the trigger was $4.00 a gallon. There's nothing magic about it. It's tied directly to the price of crude oil and the price of gasoline in the global market. Supply, demand and futures traders all impact it.

Proposed energy legislation would initiate a cap and trade program that would raise the price of carbon-based fuels to help offset the environmental impacts of their use. While the impact on households of such a tax would be fairly limited, there is an outcry that it would be an undue burden at a time of economic uncertainty, falling wages and increasing energy market prices.

Based on what I see in driving behavior, I can argue that gas prices are not high enough! On my daily commute to Indy and back, I still see solo drivers in SUVs and pickup trucks speeding (75mph on I-69 is pretty common), racing from one red light to the next (Binford Boulevard), jack-rabbit starts followed by slamming on brakes (downtown).

I see engines idling at the ATM and driveup bank, while pumping gas (not only ironic but unsafe) and while the cars' owners are inside the C-store stocking up on smokes and lottery tickets. And this is in spring and fall, not the dead of winter with a baby on board to keep warm.

While working in my yard at the entrance of our housing addition, over the course of several hours, I'll watch some of my neighbors make three or four trips of short duration. They almost are invariably driving an SUV or minivan.

This behavior not only wastes increasingly precious and costly resources - not only oil but money!, but also adds to pollution. There are no shortage of online resources sharing ways to reduce gas consumption and none of them represent a sacrifice of any kind. There is no reason to not do it.

Before we complain too much about the price of gas, we should first stop, observe our behavior and ask what we can do to reduce our consumption. We can't all buy the latest hybrid, or move closer to work, or take public transportation, but if we're not doing all we can do, we've no right to complain.



Gas Mileage Tips
Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Act

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