Sunday, March 06, 2011

Observations ... gas prices ...

To get out of the Jack Kelly rut I am in, I thought I would look at some other issues that Instead of responding to someone else's writing, I want to comment on the world around (mostly).

So last time I looked, the Shell station on the corner was at $3.55 per gallon for regular. It has gone up, what, twenty cents or more in the last week or so. Since Libya had only a small percentage of the world oil market (although it apparently may have huge reserves), it seem unlikely that actual supply shortages account for the rise in Like 2008, speculation seems to be the cause of this increase.

I have long advocated European levels of taxation on gas. I believe that a system could have been set up to transfer maybe five or six hundred dollars back (from the gas tax revenues) to people whose income is below the US median (or some other number designed to keep from punishing the poor) as part of a tax refund. Thus, the higher price at the pump would have made people think twice about unnecessary driving, but the poor would not have suffered. However, if the price continues to rise on its own, we may soon reach European gas prices without having their taxes.

When I had suggested taxes at European levels, some conservatives have suggested they would be delighted to see that, hoping it would undo Obama and other Democrats in 2012. Now we say those prices, but we can be sure that the Republicans will blame Obama anyway.

One thing I find interesting is that US car companies had decided to start offering more fuel efficient cars about when Obama was elected. I guess they thought that Obama and the new Democratic majority would mandate stringent new fuel standards. In fact, most car companies have models sold in Europe which get better still mileage, which might be offered in the US as a last resort (although it does not look like this will happen). But I am fascinated by the new Ford Fiesta and the Chevy Cruze Eco, not to mention the Fusion hybrid (and of course the foreigners like the new Honda Insight). The non hybrids that eke out high mileage on the highway don't do nearly so well in the city, where many of us do a lot of our driving. I will say that obviously the people who live in the ex-urbs do quite a lot of highway driving, but except for the few who choose hybrids, I can't see ex-urb dwellers driving Cruzes or Fiestas. They are more SUV types.

Meanwhile, the cheap Cruze and fiesta may well be the choice for less wealthy urban residents, which is unfortunate, since they will get less than optimal mileage. By contrast, the relatively cheap Honda Insight would be a great choice for a city car, since it gets almost as good of mileage in the city as it gets on the highway. Pity the American hybrid sedans, the Volt and the Fusion, while getting good mileage, are expensive and big.

There is alternatives to car travel worth considering. We don't and won't have high speed for some time to come, and even if we do get, it will be designed like airports, with stations far from neighborhoods. But for day to day travel, if we choose to live in the city, where apartments are much more energy efficient. Often, we can walk to stores or work (I am that lucky). Or we can take public transportation (light rail or more often buses), or ride a bike. On that score there are some interesting alternatives. I like electric bikes mostly because there is a good chance you can arrive at your destination less sweaty. Bikes with lithium batteries have come down in price in the last three or four years (the time frame I have been looking at them). The lithium batteries are lighter (which is nice but not that important), hold a bigger charge and thus have a longer range, and do not need to be recharged immediately after use. This last point makes the bike more than just a commuter (to be recharged at work, and then immediately after returning home). Instead, the bike can also be used to visit friends or for light shopping trips. That's why I really like any bike I buy to have a rear rack, that you hang various types of panniers from. Walmart offers three models of bikes from Currie Technologies that would meet the needs of commuters as well as those who might stop at a store or a friends some time. I believe the two higher levels of models at Walmart are last year's models, and will not last forever. Meanwhile, Currie has a new model: the Skyline for eight hundred. I hope it has provisions for a rear rack. This is the cheapest price for an electric bike with a lithium battery I have seen from a manufacturer.

Well, those were my thoughts.


Vannevar said...

Kind Sir, you are onto something here. Of all places, BestBuy is moving in a big way into selling electric bicycles. If the link doesn't work, on click Home & Appliances, then click Electric Vehicles.

I'm not a shill for BestBuy, but it's interesting to me when a major company that's used to recognizing when technology is about to go from "early adopters" to mainstream consumer decides to jump.

Excellent post.

EdHeath said...

Yeah, I am aware of Best Buy's having electric bikes. In my opinion their prices aren't that good, but they are a useful alternative. I don't know if they ship to stores.

Amazon also has an impressive selection of electric bikes, but shipping can be an issue.

And I am not a shill for anyone, except that I advocate bike and electric bike travel.

CSI w/o Dead Bodies said...

Nice post with a lot of good info.