Thursday, March 20, 2008

Giving Many of You "The Gas Face" ***

According to CNN, http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/global_gasprices/, American gas prices (adjusted to U.S. dollars per gallon) are actually very good compared to a lot of our industrial colleagues:

Oslo, Norway - $6.82
Hong Kong - $6.25
Brussels, Belgium - $6.16
London, UK - $5.96
Tokyo, Japan - $5.25
Rome, Italy - $5.80
San Paulo, Brazil - $4.42
New Delhi, India - $3.71
Sydney, Australia - $3.42
Johannesberg - $3.39
Mexico City - $2.22
Buenos Aires - $2.09

Now here are the killers:
Riyadh, Saudia Arabi - $.91
Kuwait - $.78
Caracas, Venezuela - $.12

Many complain about gas prices. I don't. We (well, not me, but an awful lot of you) are driving gas guzzling SUVs from BFE to Indianapolis and polluting our environment. (Sorry, if this hit you like a lecture, but you need to hear this). Why? Low gas prices.

Let me give a history lesson to you "younguns" (by which I mean people younger than me). In the early 1970s, when I was a wee little lad, Americans all drove insanely inefficient American town cars. Except my father. For some reason, he was driving a Volkswagon that was so old, you could see the ground passing through the eroded floorboards. We called it the Fred Flinstone car.

Anyway, gas prices spiked because Jimmy Carter got the crazy idea that running a country was as easy as building houses for people, and everybody had to go to compact imports which outperformed American cars in fuel efficiency. Why? Because Japan was, even then, paying twice what we pay for gas. In Japan, NOT paying $100 per week for gas seemed like a good idea. Finally, after seeing so many Honda Accords littering our streets, the Big Three started making their own small, fuel-efficient cars.

BUT as gas prices kept getting lower and lower, the American obsession with big things crept back into the world and thus was born the SUV. When Japan saw the profit margins on SUVs, they started, ironically, making them, too, and the Big Three, in a desperate ploy to capture market share, basically started giving away vehicles (No interest! Ever!) And here we sit now with gas at $3.30 per gallon. It now takes the equivalent of the GNP of Lichtenstein for a single Hoosier to get through a month of petroleum needs in his SUV and/or pick-up truck.

As a result, we now have pressure to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Why? Because we can't afford our gas guzzling SUVs anymore. As arrogant as Americans can be sometimes (including myself), surely the fact we burn 70% of the world's fossil fuels would suggest to us that we should, ya know, create more fuel efficient vehicles. But NO! Gas was too cheap for that! The problem with most vehicles is that you can't get in and out of them in a day. As a result, the upside to high gas prices over a prolonged period is that either Detroit starts making fuel efficient cars, or people won't be able to buy them anymore. But to make this radical consumer change, you have to have consistently high gas prices.

The same applies to alternative energy sources. We pledged in 1980 to break our dependency on foreign oil. But when gas went back under $1.00 per gallon, where was the need? (To commemorate this phenomenon, Berkley Breathed had a Bloom County comic strip where an old man proclaims, in a fit of good gas price euphoria, "Pour out the milk, Ethel. The cat drinks unleaded from now on!")

But my main gripe with low gas prices is the suburban sprawl that it helped create. When you pay $1.00 per gallon, you can run out of Indianapolis away from all those bothersome African-Americans (tongue firmly in cheek, but who are we kidding? You can track the downward skid in population from Indianapolis from the day the courageous Hugh Dillon said, "Let's desegregate the schools!"). Stay and try to create a diverse community of people who work together to solve problems like a bad IPS system? Heck no! I can bail out with all the other white people into Brownsburg and drive into town for almost no cost! I do not believe it is a stretch to say cheap gas has helped speed the decline of many of America's inner cities by making the "politics of exit" too cheap for many people who might have cared enough to fight. And in exchange, what has it wrought in the suburbs? Mile after mile of strip mall and demolished greenspace. Is there anywhere you can go today in Greenwood, Plainfield, Avon, Brownsburg, Westfield, etc., etc., where there was once a field that isn't now a clearcut area awaiting construction of vacant stripmalls with signs reading, "Space for Lease?"

What is worse for Indianapolis is that we had wide open cornfields on every side and not enough people to start with. As a result, the population that used to be Indianapolis is now dispersed throughout nine doughnut counties, making it inefficient to even construct the one environmental benefit that normally comes from the mad dash out of the city - a mass transit system.

A final note...if we can keep gas prices high enough to actually break our dependence on foreign oil, our foreign policy will change dramatically. We can recoup all the moral currency we lost having to kow two to regimes we might have normally smacked down, at least diplomatically (and yes, I mean you, Saudi Arabia - the REAL harborer of terrorists, not Iraq). Also, once our "oil interests" in the Middle East have waned, we'll see if we're really a good a friend to Israel because they're a democracy, or because we needed a spring board from which to manage conflict that could disrupt our oil supplies.

It's not a stretch to suppose that gaining our energy independence could change everything we do internationally. And Republicans should be most eager to join this clarion call for higher gas prices because they won't have to be irritated by peaceniks anymore saying, "We invaded (insert name of most recent country Republican President has invaded here) for oil!" It would no longer be true, even hypothetically.

*** - "The Gas Face" -- an expression popularized by the 1990's hip hop group, 3rd Bass, that refers to a "disdainful look given to one who behaves in a questionable or foul manner."


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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post, mostly. My family and I have said for years that smaller vehicles, better mileage, alternative fuels, and mass transit will not come about until the price of gass becomes outrageous. It is sad that it takes that kind of suffering among the working classes before something is done, but that is the way it is.

There are things to keep in mind. Many of us cannot afford new cars at all. The minimum priced new car is the yearly salary of someone making minimum wage. The price of cars has continued to rise, while wages have remained stagnant. Not everyone driving a pick up truck or a full sized van are doing it because of the 'american obsession with big things', it is the vehicle we need to do our jobs. I, for one, had a job that required me to have a full-sized van or pick-up. I was laid off from that job. Luckily enough, I had managed to pay off my 12 year old truck prior to the lay off. I currently make less than $34,000 per year. All of my bills are still the same. My husband and I have a mortgage, insurance, utilities, a student loan, and two children getting ready to go to college. I live in Marion County, just not center township. The price of gas is so high, it has put such a tight crunch in my budget that every member of my family has sacrificed something. However, the price of gas has not risen enough that it would offset the combination of the price of the newer car with better mileage, the increased insurance rates, and higher excise tax. My option would be to jeopardize my savings and enter into more debt than I am comfortable with to purchase that newer vehicle. And I am unwilling to do that until the gas price numbers and the higher expenses of a new car become closer.

Before you judge everyone you see driving a large vehicle, you may want to consider that perhaps they have solid reasons for driving that vehicle.

Anonymous said...

The nations which you compare U.S. gasoline prices against have 50% or more in government VAT and other taxes. Thus it is more like comparing apples to oranges.

Please remember U.S. gasoline prices were $1.15 when President Bush was elected. Amazing what happens when you put the former governor of Texas as President and an oil services executive as Vice President.

iPOPA said...

Even if you disagree with everything else I say on the history of this blog, let me offer this bit of advice, which you must accept: NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER buy a new car.

Fortune magazine did a study of wealthy people, and curiously, one of the dominant traits they all shared was the wisdom to know that there's no point in paying $30,000 for a new car that depreciates to a value of $24,000 the minute you drive it off the lot.

You have options that are not as expensive as buying a new hybrid. The last Honda Accord I drove went for 313,000 miles, and it got about 38 miles per gallon. Check out a used car with good gas mileage at your next available opportunity.

Anonymous said...

But my main gripe with low gas prices is the suburban sprawl that it helped create. When you pay $1.00 per gallon, you can run out of Indianapolis away from all those bothersome African-Americans (tongue firmly in cheek, but who are we kidding? You can track the downward skid in population from Indianapolis from the day the courageous Hugh Dillon said, "Let's desegregate the schools!"). Stay and try to create a diverse community of people who work together to solve problems like a bad IPS system? Heck no! I can bail out with all the other white people into Brownsburg and drive into town for almost no cost! I do not believe it is a stretch to say cheap gas has helped speed the decline of many of America's inner cities by making the "politics of exit" too cheap for many people who might have cared enough to fight.

So, you live in a Section 8 cesspool? Does your kid (if you have any) attend a poor school full of inner city black kids? Sorry, but I am sick of folks painting many good people I know as racists just because they moved away from poor trash. The color of the skin means nothing, well only to liberals. The truth of the matter is that most parents would rather have their kids in a school where the majority of the kids are raised to a point where at least basic education is thought of as a good thing. Raised in an area where having a kid out-of-wedlock at 14 isn't considered OK. Where the first thing that is discussed when it is discovered a 17 year old is going to have a baby is where one goes for all the various welfare benefits. Sorry, but my parents made sure that I did not have to grow up around this kind of influence. When we moved into the "sticks" (as it was back then), we had our share of trashy trailer park types. They shared the same value system as the poor blacks in the inner city. Guess, what, I wasn't allow to associate with them either. Who wants their kids hanging out with kids whose parents get drunk, smoke dope, etc..

Also, I wish everyone in the suburbs who works downtown would stop eating lunch or buying anything downtown for one year. What how many food places close their doors once they lose that lunch rush M-F. You know, my parents moved away from the inner city and away from Section 8 hood morals and I don't blame them at all. Who wants to live with that? Who wants to stay and try to make a change when you can catch a stray round from a drive-by shooting? When my parents moved further east, they still were only seven miles from work. That is about how much some folks from Meridian-Kessler, Irvington, etc. drive within the city to their jobs.

So Mr. Diversity, which Section 8 apartment complex do you live in? There are plenty of complexes who would take your money. You might be the only one there who doesn't get a rent voucher, but they would welcome you with open arms. My guess is that you don't want to live around poor people anymore than anyone else.

Oh, what have you done to help IPS? Why don't you become a teacher there? Surely you want to help make the system diverse and help poor black kids get an education. Are you all talk and no play action?

As far as high gas prices. People who complain about gas are just typical Americans. No one complained when home builders started building cracker jack box homes and charged twice what our parents were pay for all stone homes. No one complained when Indy gave away millions in tax dollars to private sports teams. No one complained when cars shot up in price more and more. People only complain about what they see on a daily basis. They see cable bills monthly, so they complain about those. Now they see gas bills monthly, so they complain about those. Gas has done more for us their $4/cup Starbucks coffee, but folks had no problem spending that $4/day for something they could have had for $1 or less.

By the way, gas is only expensive if you talk about it in terms of our fiat United States currency. Anyone who choose to invest in gold and/or silver still has .99/gal. gas.

Anonymous said...

My family and I have said for years that smaller vehicles, better mileage, alternative fuels, and mass transit will not come about until the price of gass becomes outrageous. It is sad that it takes that kind of suffering among the working classes before something is done, but that is the way it is.

I currently make less than $34,000 per year. All of my bills are still the same. My husband and I have a mortgage, insurance, utilities, a student loan, and two children getting ready to go to college. I live in Marion County, just not center township. The price of gas is so high, it has put such a tight crunch in my budget that every member of my family has sacrificed something.


It sounds like you are on the right path, but I hope you are nothing thinking your kids need to go away to college. There is a perfectly good college at IUPUI. If you really want to talk mass transit, your kid doesn't even need a car to get to IUPUI, students get free IndyGo bus passes (at least for now).

In addition to the car suggestion, I would suggest not falling for the "college life" BS. That is nothing more than a sales pitch so that universities can take more of your money. There is a reason some universities require all entering freshman to live on campus, and it isn't for the benefit of the student! The whole point of getting kids to fall in love with college is so that they will give money later one because of the "great experiences!" one is to have.

College is a joke. They make you take a bunch of classes which have nothing to do with the students career field. College administrators claim to be about freedom, yet they demand kids take, I mean pay, for classes which really are just not needed. The entire "well rounded" logic is a joke. I know two kids who spent two years at Bloomington only to come back and get full-time paid internships, then full-time jobs, paying $35K/year. They finished up at IUPUI part-time and are now making even more money. I know another person who went to Ivy Tech for nursing. She didn't have to go to IUPUI or get a four year degree. In two years she was an RN making the exact same amount as any other RN in most cases. She has also positioned herself to be able to go back part-time to go from an associates degree to a bachelors degree. Of course the money she saved is enormous.

Just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

First I want to thank you all for responding.

I guess I didn't mean a brand new car, as I would never spend that much money on a car. I am saying that I have yet to find a decent car that has tipped my economic balance, based on associated costs, such as excise and insurance. I mostly meant to point out that the person in a pick-up truck or van is not necessarily a complaining, gas guzzler. I have a tonneau cover on my truck, because I used to carry tools and equipment back there, so I probably appeared to have no reason to drive a truck to many people. Additionally, I am female and most people don't associate females in a pick-up truck with laborers. I was one and that is why I still drive the truck. Besides, I enjoy building and creating furniture so I use my truck to haul my wood and supplies from the lumberyard to my home.

As for college, I too attended IUPUI. I also attended Ball State. So, I have experienced both. My child is interested in both IU and IUPUI, I will not discourage either one, as I believe there are merits in both institutions. I am very fond of trade schools, tech schools, and apprenticeship programs. However, Dentistry is not offered there and I will not discourage the desire to be a dentist because of the cost. I am hoping for grants, loans, and scholarships.

Maybe I should have taken better majors and one of my degrees would have paid more. :) With that being said, I was paid more as a laborer (thank you union membership) and had better insurance. Thankfully, they didn't lay off my Dad.