More Dogs on Main Street
It appears that gas prices can hit $3 a gallon without causing economic collapse in the U.S. There’s no question that the increase will be noticed, and among people living paycheck to paycheck, the impact of higher gas prices may force some adjustments in spending elsewhere (Wal-Mart is worried). But if the number of snowmobiles heading up the canyon above my house for one last hurrah is any indication, gas prices may not be high enough yet to cause any real changes. Crude oil is hanging in there at about $70 a barrel, so it seems reasonable that retail gas prices will stick at about the $3 range for a while. That assumes there aren’t any significant supply disruptions, which is getting to be a pretty big assumption given the nastiness with Iran and their nukes. It’s still cheaper than Starbucks coffee.
So we’ll adjust. Even with the thirstiest of the SUV’s, it wouldn’t take much of a reduction in total miles driven to offset the higher price. Simple things like combining lists of errands into a single trip, planned around the shortest route, may do it. Higher gas prices are neither the end of the world, nor likely to go away.
There was a column in the Tribune last week from Cal Thomas, the right-winger, who is sure it is all a jihadist conspiracy ginned up by the loathsome A-rabs. He said the solution to our energy problems is a massive project to find alternative fuels (which makes sense). But to commit to the goal, "we need an enemy." He actually said that. Nothing warms the hearts of these true believers like having somebody to hate. So he suggested we all hate the A-rabs, and adopt a motto: "Let them eat sand."
He focused his wrath mostly on the Arabs, though he was able to find a little for the Venezuelans, who don’t much like us these days. Even though we import more oil from Canada than all the Middle Eastern countries combined, Cal seemed to be willing to give the Canadians a pass. He didn’t say whether we were supposed to hate the Mexicans (over oil, that is). We import a lot of oil from Mexico, too. I think that if each illegal immigrant brought a barrel of Mexican oil with him, Cal might change his views on immigration as well as oil.
At first, I thought Cal was off his meds, ranting and raving the way he so often does. "Let them eat sand!" I thought the high price of oil may have something to do with people in India and China buying cars and making unreasonable demands for electric lights and heat in their houses. World demand seems to be picking up while world oil production is pretty much flat. So them that’s got gets, and them that’s not gives. The conspiracy theory sounded a lot like basic economics.
But then I thought about the last time I bought a car. I remember this guy in the corner wearing a burnoose. Just when I was about to ink the deal on the 50 mpg diesel, he came running out of the shadows, holding a bomb. He threatened to blow everything up if I didn’t go across the street and buy a giant SUV instead. The salesman managed to defuse the situation, but there was no doubt about it, the Arab conspirator was right there in the VW dealership trying to make me buy a gas guzzler.
It also happened when I built my house. Just about when the plans were finalized, an Arab walked into the architect’s office and tried to force me to build another 2,000 square feet that I didn’t really need or want to heat. Since I’m on propane at my house, which is quite expensive, I wanted to stay small and hold the costs within reason (even 25 years ago). But this Arab, who was one of those Wyoming Arabs in the propane business, tried to force me to build a bigger house. I almost fell for it.
So thanks to Cal Thomas, I’ve been enlightened. Our energy use patterns in the U.S. are not a result of our own choices, but part of the grand conspiracy of our true enemies. Let them eat sand! Except, of course, the Canadians, eh.
Bush gave us all a little pep talk about energy prices this week. While he spoke, the stock market fell 55 points. He’s on the case, personally involved and working hard for a solution. We’re done for. His solution appears to be ethanol. Everything I’ve read on the topic says it requires as much energy to create a gallon of ethanol as there is in gallon of ethanol. Conservation seems to be the great unmentionable in all of the Bush proposals.
This week, Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld flew to Iraq. They flew in separate planes. Nobody really explained why they flew half way around the world in separate planes rather than riding together. The possible reasons are (a) things are so badly coordinated at the White House that they didn’t know the other was also headed to Iraq until they got there; (b) neither Condi nor Rummy wanted to ride on the other’s plane because it might be taken as an indication of pecking order; (c) the security conditions in Iraq are such that they didn’t want to take the risk of having two high-ranking officials "greeted as liberators" by the same rocket-propelled grenade; (d) Condi can’t stand it when Rummy does karaoke with the flight crew for a 12-hour flight; or (e) if we start car pooling, the terrorists have won. My bet’s on (e).
So keep a stiff upper lip, gas up the SUV and remember, there will be a time when we look back at the era of $3 gas and say, those were the good old days.
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Travel helps define our identity and culture, writes Jennifer Wesselhoff. “The real story is the people behind the data.”