High Gas Prices, Good

A mountain biking buddy recently bought a truck that runs on vegetable oil or regular diesel fuel.  He did this because it was costing him about 30 dollars every time he drove his massive dual cab 4 wheel drive truck to the trailhead.  I’ve particularly enjoyed his spirited denial of being a “treehugger” but couldn’t help to wonder how much easier and cheaper it would have been for him to just buy a Geo Metro and strap a rack to it.

Oil prices hit 113.05 today and gas in my town went up to $3.95  Thats not really good news, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not nearly as big a deal as some folks like to make it out to be and in many ways it is actually a good thing. 

In 2007 when gas skyrocketed to over 130 dollars I noticed a fired up new interest in being “green;”  hybrids sales skyrocketed, the Hummer brand of SUVs which in my mind more than anything represented the indulgence of America, was dismantled and people were actually beginning to think about using less energy. 

Then gas went down again a year later and I could feel a collective sigh when everyone realized it was going to be fine and that we could go back to the way things were, or at least quit worrying so much about it. 

I myself have little room to talk on this issue, I own a fairly large car that gets decent but not great gas mileage around 20 mpg on average, but I try not waste gas and car pool to work with another teacher which is about a 30 mile each way commute.  Right now I was wishing I had a Toyota Prius and enjoying twice as much gas mileage despite the fact that the gas prices haven’t really affected me that much.  If I could go back and buy a different car it would have been smaller with more economy.   

One thing I can be happy about is that my choice of recreation doesn’t require much oil to fuel.  Most of my rides start from my back door.  My mountain bike rides are a pretty short drive usually less than 15 minutes.  Sure I may drive to occasional group ride, but that isn’t too often.  When I think of the people with huge trucks to haul their massive boats, horse trailors, ATVs and the like I wonder how they can afford it.  Will they be able to if gas hits that 5 dollar a gallon milestone I keep hearing about?

So what good is coming out of high gas prices?  Well despite the obvious good of pushing people towards more economical choices of transportation, I’d like to see a change in a trend I’ve been noticing more and more my whole life: Sprawl.  People seem to want to live farther and farther from towns, what started as subdivisions a mile from town are now 5 miles from town.  Business decentralize and build out-of-town, schools get built farther from town, roads get redirected to bypass town, and guess what happens to town, it rots. 

To me the problem fuels itself, people don’t want to live in town because there are to many undesirables walking around, crimes are most likely to happen in town, you have less privacy and less space.  As the movers and shakers of society move away from town so does everything else leaving urban desolation and falling real estate in its wake creating more undesirables.  Perhaps a higher gas price would encourage more development in towns. 

The fact is undeniable, gas may go down again, but the days of cheap dirty energy are over.  Our nation can’t afford to rely on the rest of the world to fulfill our love affair with driving.

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About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in lifestyle, Rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to High Gas Prices, Good

  1. Steve says:

    I’m afraid the problem is bigger than you describe. The U.S. uses far more than its share in almost every natural resource, including oil. As a practical matter, this was ok as long as 2/3 of the world lived in abject poverty. The problem is that is no longer the case and billions of people (with increasingly better education) see what the U.S. has and wants it too. There’s not enough to go around.

    But back to gas prices. If you drive a gas guzzler with a 15mpg average, you’re paying approximately 26 cents per mile when gas is at $4/gallon. If you buy a brand new energy efficient car that gets 35mpg, you’re averaging about 11 cents per mile. If you paid $15,000 for that new car, it will take you 100,000 miles to BREAK EVEN on your gas savings. Conclusion: gas needs to go much higher to significantly change behavior amongst the car buying public.

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