Monday, August 07, 2006

Is Gasoline stil to Cheap?

I am sure this will perhaps upset a few persons, but I find it necessary to discuss why, per some observations of mine, it seems that Gasoline may still be too Cheap. Cheap, you say? How can anyone call $3.00/gallon cheap? You must be rich! You must be insane! Gas can not possibly be called cheap, or can it?

Well, if it is so expensive, then why does everyone around me still want to burn through it at a record pace and waste it on some of the most ridiculous things? Keep in mind: price is directly related to the supply/demand equation. Price rises as a) demand increase, or b) supply decreases. One side of this equation is easier for the average person to control (and, no, it is not supply -- unless you have a new oil well in your back yard you can tap as needed). Demand is what we, the consumers, have some control over. Though, it seems, we all can find as many excuses as necessary to explain why we don't exercise any control over our consumption.

Granted, most of our gasoline (or diesel / petroleum products) consumption in this country goes to our fleet of personal and business (including government) vehicles. But, there are quite a few things that still burn through a gallon or two here and there that can be greatly reduced. Reduction may break some unwritten social paradigms of present along the way, since you certainly must mow your lawn every 4 days whether it needs it or not, lest you display a few out of place blades for the whole neighborhood to see. Yes, it is things like that which make me question whether gas prices are high enough. (before you read too much into this thought, trust me, I too hate the price to fill up my gas tank in even my 10-year old tiny little Mitsubishi Eclipse, which gets decent mileage).

To continue with my observations of wasteful, and what I believe are avoidable, consumption habits, here is just a sampling of what I see going on, and what I think should be done to curve usage:
  • The whole lawn-mowing thing: OK, so I have all these neighbors that are obsessed with the out-of-place blade of grass or dandelion poking through for others to see. And yes, they will mow their lawns, even in the middle of August when the grass barely grows, at least once a week if not twice - whether it needs it or not. And, if one neighbor does, then god knows that persons neighbor will, just to be sure that their grass is not the one that stands out as "unkept". When did this "need" for perfectly manicured lawns start? (well, in the 1800's when they invented reel-mowers probably). I suggest we reevaluate this "need", and start saving gas (unless you want to put one of those old unpowered reel-mowers to use; which by the way I did all Spring... great exercise and weight loss plan, but that is another store). The other thing to consider is alternatives to grass that look just as nice -- we have creeping-thyme that is now covering an entire side of our yard; it never grows above a certain height, requires no fertilizer or pesticides, crowds out other weeds, and flowers for over a month this time of year with a nice lavender hue to our yard, and attracts tons of honeybees (and it smells great too, plus you can eat it if you want).
  • Lawn care part two: OK, so if persistent lawn mowing was not enough of a waste, when did we as a human race decide that we just "must" weed-whack our yards and edge every darn inch of the place. Then came the whole leaf-blower scene, since we dare not have a blade of that perfectly-cut grass show up on our sidewalk. The smell of two-cycle oil burning without emission-controls should be enough for any of us to not want it done, but that is obviously not enough. So, how about we save a few gallons of petrol and stop doing it -- at least reduce it to once every three or four weeks instead of every time! Now, the lawn-care guys certainly won't like any of my suggestions - as they keep pushing all this as added services we just have to have. And, the Home Depots and Lowes of the world certainly do not want you to stop spending money on all those outdoor power tools and consumables (like trimmer-string) either -- I doubt they need worry, nothing will change.
  • Now, let me offend (by targeting) a new group of persons -- the recreational vehicle crowd. No, I don't mean RV's per se (though they burn plenty of fuel); I'm talking about the dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, jet skis, and so on that just need to be piloted all over yards or lakes. A couple doors down, the teenager just has to ride his (excessively noisy) dirt bike an hour a week. Why? Because it is fun I guess, and because riding a mountain-bike in your yard is just no where near as cool or exciting.
  • Finally, I would take time to suggest that we do something to improve our public-transportation utilization, carpool more, and combine trips by planning ahead, but I am rather sure those things have been discussed much, and sadly have met with little following (sure, some do try, but most find any way possible to not change their habits).
I keep asking at what price will the insanity of burning gasoline for such idle tasks come to an end? When will you reduce your mowing frequency, cut back on your weed-whacking, or stop blowing leaves and debris (ever heard of a rake?)? Will it be $10/gallon? Or, more? When will the gas-powered toys be replaced by those old-fashioned ones we used to use... what were they called again? Bikes? Roller Blades? Our legs? :)

On the upside, I must absolutely applause the one man I see riding his bicycle to work every day of the year, regardless of weather, up and down our street -- wow, now that is dedication! And, I know I do my share of wasting gasoline and can do better at finding ways to reduce energy consumption. I do not want to see my money flowing to overseas oil fields; I'd much rather see it going to pay for a new windmill / wind-power farm, solar facility, or tide-power source. Not only would petroleum consumption drop, but air quality should improve as emissions drop along with the burning of fossil fuels. But, who wants clean air anyhow - we only breath that stuff? heh.


Mark said...

Much of the fuel consumption in this country is wasted. Auto racing, boat racing, sporting events. Not only do these people burn a lot of gas but millions travel all over the country each year to watch these events. I agree there is much we could do to reduce consumption. Unfortunately most don't care where they get their fuel comes from, they only know that they want it, and they want it cheap. Slowly some are coming to realize this can't continue but they are still in the minority. I fear it will take real economic pain before there is a consensus solution, and, that the solution may be worse for the environment than what we are doing now.

Mike Eberhart said...

Mort, you are right on the money with your comments. I fear it will take a true crisis situation before people wake up and make serious changes to their fuel consumption habits.

I keep hearing how this is a time of war (per Bush, congress, and the like). True perhaps, but what is funding our enemy in this war: primarily, it is oil. Our own administration keeps talking about how Iran funds terrorism -- well, where do they get their money: oil! It is not like Iran is a huge technology exporter or anything else. Nearly all of the extremist groups that this war on terror is to fight are funded by oil money. And, these groups know it and play us all like a fiddle by rattling their sabers whenever they need more cash flow (i.e., do something like a missile-test when you want your commodity, oil, to rise in price so you can afford to buy more missiles). We are being played to the extreme!

So, let's solve two problems at once. Stop funding the terrorists by slowing our demand for their product (oil). Move to solar, wind, tide, and other renewable energy before it is too late. That giant sucking sound of our cash going into their war-coffers must slow and slow soon. Though, I suspect nothing will change and we will continue to consume fuel at a record pace while only helping the extremists fund their cause (and, further bankrupt our government by the expense to fight them). My god could we (the USA) have built some magnificent solar and wind farms with the money spend on the "war on terror"! And, we would have something to show for it aside from a growing list of casualties and a better-funded opponent.