Monthly Archives: May 2008

Gas Tank Gimmicks

Woman reading on a warm sunny day

A young woman relaxing, reading on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Fall, MA


With all the talk and battling policies in the presidential campaign, nobody is willing to tell the American people the one thing they can do to lower the cost of gasoline.  Drive less.

Nobody wants to say it because they don’t really want you to do it. Well, ok, maybe some of the conservationists do. They’re the ones telling us the government should raise the gas tax. Of course, they’re not trying to get elected. Who would vote for them?

The truth is, many of the of people running government today are themselves enriched by our dependency on oil. Once the big oil supplying nations around the world saw that the American people were willing to pay anything for gas, they just lifted the lid on prices and they’ve been soaring every since. Don’t you think it’s strange that the prices never went up so high before? That’s because the conventional wisdom was we wouldn’t pay high prices. Member nations of OPEC used to be very worried if the price of crude went up above $30 a gallon. They thought the American people would stop buying, find other ways to get around. Maybe years ago people had such choices to make but not anymore. And that’s the point. So many more people live in suburban communities now, not to mention rural areas where I live where there is hardly any mass transit and driving is the only means of transportation. While conservationists think rising prices are great, that all these high gas prices are going to make people find other means to get around, “invest in alternative energy”, the reality is people are going broke – and losing their homes in some cases – because the cost of going to work is more than they can afford.

But still, I see a game in this. President Bush came out and said he is upset that we haven’t done what he’s asked to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. His solution? Drill in Anwar, Alaska. OK. I couldn’t help but wonder – if we let him drill for oil in Alaska, will he talk to the Sheiks and get them to pump more oil onto the market to lower prices? Is he just holding out for what he wants before he talks to them and says, ok, you can open the spigot now?

The other thing he wanted was an easing of the impediments to building more oil refineries. I have to admit I don’t understand this one. It seems logical to have more refineries. Perhaps someone can help me out here. What is the problem?

Still, when it comes right down to it, we the people have so much power. We just don’t know it. If we would drive less, spend less money on stuff we don’t need, fill savings accounts in our local banks with the excess money saved from all that junk we didn’t buy and gas money we saved from car-pooling and saying no to our kids once in a while (no it won’t traumatize them for life) maybe our economy wouldn’t be built on match-sticks.

I went to a meeting in Greenfield, Mass. this week on Sustainable Living with a focus on transportation and the one good idea I heard that everyone could do right now is car-pooling. Not just with fellow workers although that’s what a lot of people do and is very good for everyone. But this could start at home. Families with three cars could consider leaving one (or even two) at home and driving each other to work or school. Imagine the benefit of not getting that 16 year old his or her own car until they graduate from high school. It could be a graduation gift! The greatest benefit would be that they would all actually get to graduate, as so many of our youngest drivers die in auto accidents every year. Why not let kids drive the family car (is there such a thing anymore?) for a while to get the experience of driving before giving them ownership and a level of freedom they’re not mature enough to handle. Perhaps they could drive their parents’ car on date night. Conversely, maybe it would be better to have a parent drive them when they’re going to a party, for safety and to avoid those hazards of intoxication young people sometimes get into unexpectedly, out of a lack of experience. Wouldn’t it be so much better to just have an understanding in advance that Mom or Dad would be picking them up from the party at a particular time instead of having them “call” (who does that?) if they’re feeling like they need a ride.

There are so many ways in which our dependence on the automobile has skewed our society in a dangerous direction. We are fighting a war not so much over oil as because of it. This war started with a terrorist attack by a group who claimed to be angry over our presence in Saudi Arabia. We’d been there since our war against Iraq in 1991. Our entire involvement in this part of the world is because of oil. If this was just a bunch of people living in the desert fighting with each other over water rights we wouldn’t care about them at all. Yes, there is the issue of Israel, but the Arabs would have no clout with the U.S. if it weren’t for oil, and the argument over Israel would be a lot simpler.

I keep hearing that people have to be responsible for their own actions. I think that we as Americans are more than willing to do our part. We just need to know what that is, and in this election year, we are just going to get silly solutions that don’t work. Is anybody really going to pas a gas-tax holiday in this year of huge deficits and national debt? If anything, the politicians will give us just enough flim-flam to keep us from guessing that if we all stayed home every Sunday and watched tv and played with the kids (or the dog) and didn’t drive one day a week, we could lower the cost of gas at the pump in a month.

So, you heard it here first. Don’t shop, don’t drive one day a week, and put the money you save in a savings account so the banks won’t have to borrow from China to keep themselves afloat. That’s what you can do for America.