Chair Force Engineer

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Out of Gas

Every time I log onto Facebook (the popular social network website,) I see that several more of my friends have joined a group stating that they're not buying gas on May 15. The idea is that if people boycott the gas companies for one day, the prices will drop. Ideas like this indicate a poor understanding of economics; if left uncorrected, it will lead people to believe in rubbish like Marxism.

I'm somewhat amazed to see how poorly people understand the concept of supply & demand when it comes to gas. Because our demand is high, relative to the world's petroleum output, gas companies can get away with charging prices that are now reaching $4.00/gallon in some cities.

As Peter Parker says in Spider-Man 3, "we all have a choice." In the case of rising gas prices, we can choose to consume less gas, hence we choose to buy less gas. What effect will the May 15 gas boycott have? A small fraction of the nation's drivers will have an immediate need to fill up on May 15. Most boycotters who would have normally filled their tanks up on May 15 will instead do it on May 14 or May 16. As long as driving habits don't change, consumption will remain the same.

Here's a modest proposal: why don't we have a day where, instead of boycotting the oft-villainized oil companies, we decide to boycott the consumption of gas? Even better yet, why can't every American make a commitment to burning 20% less gasoline than they used to? After all, 20% of our petroleum resources come from the middle east. Isn't it a sad irony that American petrodollars flow to the oil sheiks, who give the petrodollars to terrorists, who turn around and kill Americans? Hopefully the asshole who leisurely cruises around in his Ford Excursion thinks about the blood of American service personnel next time he looks in the mirror.

All Americans need to examine their driving habits to determine how they can contribute to our energy independence. I get burned up every time I see some dickhead driving to work alone in a truck or minivan or SUV. These vehicles have their purpose, but they should be left in the driveway when they're not absolutely necessary for hauling people or cargo. Virtually every household should have at least one four-cylinder compact car that's used as a "daily driver" for the commute to work and back.

Adopting "daily drivers" is a good start towards a future free of middle eastern oil, but it's not the only simple thing we can do. Short trips can be accomplished on foot or on bike. Errands that aren't time critical can be pushed aside until they can be combined with another trip in the same direction. It's not going to take ethanol or hydrogen to alleviate the short-term energy crisis. It takes a little bit of critical thinking and discipline, so we can make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of gasoline we use.

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