There’s this group of addicts whose habit has been discussed openly, but they’ve never been too serious about dealing with it. In fact, in the last several years they’ve started partaking more in an almost wonton fashion. Unfortunately, this last year their substance-of-choice has gotten really expensive and it’s crimping their lifestyle. They now feel they’re “victims” and demand recompense because they’re addicted… to gasoline.
Demanding the government get involved scares me. Emerging proposals have ranged from the totally stupid “$100 tax rebate,” just in time for mid-term elections, to the big business wet dream of repealing environmental regulations… to clean up all those envirotoxins underneath our national parks. Holy short-term placation, Batman!
At a recent press event, senators Sununu, DeMint, Nelson, Menendez, and Bayh departed in vehicles whose fuel economies were 14, 15, 14, 14, and 14 mpg, respectively. While it would be easy to make fun of this, I will point out that they’re just representing their constituencies. Consider that the four selling vehicles for March 2006 were the Ford F-series (14mpg), Chevrolet Silverado (15mpg), Toyota Camry (20 mpg), and Dodge Ram (12 mpg).
Paraphrasing Jane Galt, the market for gasoline is odd for a few reasons:
- Bad fuel economy isn’t a strong impediment to vehicle choice. Last month fuel prices were averaging $2.45/gallon. As noted above, three of the top four vehicles sold get 15mpg or less per gallon. Clearly the improbable need to tow 7,000 pounds up a steep, alpine overlook is strong enough that people will buy the Humscalade and take it on the more likely trip to Starbucks for the $4 venti caramal macchiato “with room.”
Jeeze, people, buy a Ford Focus instead. Or walk.
- We buy oil from questionable sources — Iraq (No government), Iran (coping with its energy glut by building nuclear power, possibly weapons), Nigeria (still trying to free up the 100 Million United States Dollars), Venezuela (nationalizing its oil production), Saudi Arabia (funding radicals), etc.
Don’t get me started on the refining capacity issues.
- There are few good substitutes for gas that will power our big-ass metal cages. Hydrogen takes a lot of energy to produce. Ethanol is a solvent. Biodiesel… I can’t go there. None of these can succeed until there’s a distribution mechanism in place.
- Public transportation isn’t that good on the west coast. Our bus system drops off a lot once you get out to the suburbs. Even with Chris Smoak’s BusMonster and the Metro Trip Planner, the best I could do was a three bus hop from my house to work, taking 20 minutes more than I can bike the route. In practice, if I were serious about the bus option, I’d bike to the park & ride, take the bus from there. Still, it’s a 10 minute diversion.
This is one of those cases where the solution seems to be stop meddling and let market forces do their thing versus imposing some Nixonian price controls. If gas prices remain high, people will adjust their behaviors or deal with it until other competitors move in. Eventually the mess should sort itself out.