Friday, June 27, 2008

Gas prices some more

There is a still something of a national discussion about who’s to blame for higher oil prices and what to do about them. As far as blame, the discussion keeps shifting between the Chinese and Indians, the oil companies, the oil producing countries and any speculators you might find in the oil futures market. I can see why looking for a culprit would be attractive, because once found we could tell them to stop, and they could give us back George Bush’s America, where the explosive growth of the income of the rich means that we are all doing well (on average). Maybe we will find that speculators drove the price away from the actual cost of getting oil out of the ground and turning it into gas (sometimes estimated now at $75 a barrel, which makes you wonder why we had cars three or thirty years ago). If so, maybe we should give them a medal for forcing us to think about cutting back or buying smaller cars. Or maybe we should acknowledge a truth, that China is supposed to have as many cars as we do in maybe just a couple of years, before passing us, and the market is just adjusting to that fact.

But I want to talk about Dick Cheney’s notion of personal virtue, the other side of the equation, what to do about gas prices. I can’t remember where I read it, but I saw an interesting article about how we really need to concentrate not on the Ed Begley (Jr) wannabes, but rather on the clueless so and so’s who drive alone in their Lincoln Navigators and Ford F350’s at 80 on the highway. If one of them slows down to 65, it will save more gas in percentage and real terms than if I squeeze another two mpg’s out of my Hyundai Accent by coasting instead of accelerating up to a traffic light. If a family switches form a Dodge Durango to a minivan, they will make more of a contribution to reduced demand than if a Birkenstock-wearer switches from a Camry to a Corolla.

Actually, I am guessing that a lot of these Navigator drivers are males, particularly the ones who drive at eighty on the highway. Not to be discriminatory, I am sure there are women who do this too, although why do I thing that they (a) are listening to country music while they are driving eighty and (b) do not have a graduate degree? In any event, these same people who will give up their handguns when it is pried form their cold dead hands (a view blessed by the high court) are not likely to become small SUV or minivan people. But I have a solution. I think these drivers (who are often driving alone) would enjoy a large motorcycle. The motorcycle, even a big one, would at least triple their mileage, and they are quite fun. You don’t have feel like you are in a giant cocoon, instead you have the massive engine right there, between your legs. And if they don’t want to wear a helmet, I say don’t force it. Let them have their freedom.

Not that I take the Darwinian view or anything. Suffice to say, either way problems are solved.

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