Running on Empty

When I heard a young man complain at a party this weekend that it had cost him a $100 to fill up his gas tank I was shocked, not by the price but by the fact that anyone who drove a vehicle that held a $100 of gasoline would even be fazed by the price of gas.

What I wanted to tell him, but wouldn’t at a party, is that he doesn’t HAVE a problem, he IS the problem. Considering that the most I’ve ever put into my gas tank is $34, his gas guzzler probably gets somewhere around 8 miles per gallon, since all gas tanks are supposed to get you the same total miles and my car gets around 25 mpg.

If we drive the same number of miles a months, that means he’s using three times the amount of gasoline that I am (though, in reality, as frugal as I am I’m sure he’s burning much more gasoline than that). Even now when I’m driving very little, I try to combine trips to avoid driving any more than I absolutely have to.

While I’m happy that the democrats seem to be gaining additional traction at the polls because of high gas prices, I’m not much happier with their reaction to the problem than I am with the Republicans’ reaction. In fact, the only positive action I’ve seen is the almost universal agreement among politicians, starting with the President himself, that recent tax breaks granted to giant oil companies should be revoked, though there seems little agreement on which tax breaks should be repealed.

It doesn’t take an economic genius to realize that gasoline, like everything else in our society, unfortunately, is subject to the laws of supply and demand. Use less gasoline, and companies stuck with large oil surpluses will cut the prices they are demanding as will refiners who find that they have to lower prices or idle expensive refineries.

While I certainly don’t expect politicians to be economic geniuses, I’m as upset as Dana Millbank of the Washington Post when “Lawmakers talk gas, drive away in SUVs,? though I’ll have to admit that I was happy when Millbank noted that

A sampling of senators’ and staff cars parked along Delaware Avenue Northeast found that those displaying Democratic campaign bumper stickers had a somewhat higher average fuel economy (23 mpg) than those displaying GOP stickers (18 mpg).

While I think government should have a positive role in encouraging better gas mileage, in the end it’s citizens that have to truly solve the problem by buying more fuel-efficient cars, driving less, and using mass transit when we can.

4 thoughts on “Running on Empty”

  1. I agree. In Britain there are finally plans to introduce a higher road tax for gas-guzzlers (or ‘Chelsea tractors’ as they call them in London). But, of course, the tax increase will apparently be a derisory amount which probably won’t affect those who can afford to buy these vehicles anyway.

  2. Oh how I love a paid for ’99 Toyota Corolla, as well as my mountain bike and our god given two feet to huff-it ‘n’ puff-it now and then.

  3. I miss my visits into the countryside, but if the higher gas prices will finally break our fixation on uselessly large vehicles, to the good.

  4. By extension, it’s not just him that’s the problem: urban sprawl is the problem. People wouldn’t need cars if all they could get all their needs within walking distance.

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