Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gas Prices (part two)

Solutions to the relative high cost of gasoline have been proposed. President Bush has advocated more drilling for oil, even in environmentally sensitive areas. The same solutions have been proposed by Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Both McCain and Palin are strong supporters of building more nuclear power plants. On the other hand Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama supports some drilling as a temporarily stop gap measure to carry us into an era of cleaner energy. Obama doesn't entirely dismiss nuclear generated electricity but reminds us of ongoing safety and radioactive waste storage issues that are decades old and show no sign of soon being resolved.

There is more than one issue that has to be taken into consideration. One is the need for more clean sources of energy. Another is concern about the environment and global warming. Drilling for more fossil fuels is unlikely to make a dent in the energy cost any time soon. Burning more fossil fuels is counterproductive to stopping the human assault on the climate and the environment. It doesn't matter where the oil comes from. Burning it pollutes the environment, even if we didn't have to drill for it and it just bubbled out of the ground and was dirt cheap. We still have to reduce our use of fossil fuels. So solutions that include drilling for more oil are not solutions at all but simply expensive ways of perpetuating and exacerbating the problem. The money, resources, and drive for energy should be diverted from fossil fuels and aimed in the direction of sources that are renewable and do not pollute, or cause only minimal pollution. Any politician from any party who suggests that we should expand drilling for oil is suggesting that we move backwards into the past, that we disregard the environment, that we worsen the problem of global warming, and that we leave our descendants with dirty energy sources, a poisoned earth and atmosphere, and ongoing military violence against women, children, and other civilians who had the poor judgement to be born in a country with large oil deposits.

There are solutions to the energy crises. Some like hydrogen are on the distant horizon and may not be available for decades. Others like solar and wind, which is a form of solar energy, are available now, and expanding rapidly. We haven't heard much about conservation lately, but many people can save energy by making changes in their life style. Drive less, walk and peddle more. Reduce the energy demands of your work and leisure by making decisions that take energy use into consideration. Live close to your place of employment. Buy food that was grown locally. The list is endless. In part one I suggested that people can save gasoline and money by simply driving slower. There's another change that should take place to help reduce the use of energy as well as improve the environment. On Monday, Labor Day I was driving home from work (no bus service available on holidays) and again I was impressed with how empty the roads were. I could have driven on State Street from downtown Boise the few miles to Collister or Ellen's Ferry on the wrong side of the street without hitting anyone. Normally on week days it's heavy traffic most of the day. The solution, of course, is more holidays. Fifty year ago most businesses were closed on Sundays. Plans for travel on Sundays had to be made carefully because it might be difficult to find open gas stations for fuel. Usually you packed a lunch to take along, because restaurants were closed on Sundays. Today many businesses are open Sundays, but some are closed for the main holidays such as Christmas, New Years and Labor Day. More holidays with three days weekends would reduce fuel use and help keep the air clean. Businesses should be encouraged to close on holidays and Sundays. More holiday weekends would also be great for families and family life. If the conservatives in this country were as pro-family as they want us to think they are, more holiday weekends would have been at the top of their agenda for decades. I suggest an official holiday every week, but we can start with twice a month and gradually expand it to every week. It would be a great way to save energy, improve air quality, and enhance family life.

Gas Prices (part one)

A few weeks ago gas prices in the Treasure Valley area of Southwestern Idaho temporarily peaked at a little over four dollars a gallon. Most of the country was having a similar experience as gas prices reached new highs nearly everywhere and the news media focused on the increasing cost of gasoline for many days. Some blamed the president while others said that speculators were the cause. Of course the oil companies are always at fault when gas prices increase. Still others blamed the Democrats in Congress. In addition we can't forget the environmentalists who are nearly always at fault, whenever concern is expressed about the poisons from burning fossil fuel being released into the environment, and how they contribute to illness and global warming, as they have always done.

On the positive side, the news media also reported that the number of miles driven in the country compared to similar time period last year was significantly less. That is hopeful news considering the reduction in mileage driven took place rather quickly and apparently without the need for legislation. In the meantime motorists of Western Europe are paying seven to ten dollars a gallon for gasoline (or the equivalent Euros per liter for petrol), and I highly suspect that there were few if any stories in their news media about their citizens complaining of high gas prices. If fact, American complaints about the cost of our much cheaper gasoline was probably a bigger news story in Europe, as well as a source of humor for Europeans.

However it seems as if most news media outlets in this areas missed the easiest and quickest method of reducing the cost of gasoline. Next to using mass transit or some form of transportation that does not use gasoline, the easiest way to cut your cost of gasoline is to simply slow down. Although I usually take the bus or walk, when I've driven in the past couple months I've tried this solution many times. I've driven 40 MPH on West State St. between Collister and Glenwood where the speed limit is 45 mph; 30 mph on Glenwood, Chindon, and other streets where the speed limit is 35 mph. Without exception the minute I slowed down, I was passed repeatedly by others going the same direction on that street. Although nearly everyone was complaining about high gas prices, very few people were actually doing the simplest thing anyone can do to cut their gasoline cost, and that is "drive slower." In fact many of them were exceeding the speed limit. Unless you're driving an emergency vehicle, try slowing down. If you're still driving the speed limit or faster, you have no legitimate reason to complain about high gas prices. Since people are continuing to drive as they did when gas was cheaper, apparently the price of gasoline is still not high enough.