A little bit of Schadenfreude

27 July 2008

It’s been a little bit of a while since I’ve written last. I was hit again with another bout of illness, this time Strep throat, which has pretty much left me useless for the past few days. So I’ll be back to normal soon enough, and hopefully writing more. I have quite a bit to write about, including shadowing and probably something about my upcoming trip to Montréal. But, right now I turn to everyone’s favorite topic, gas prices.

I really hope I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I am in some ways happy that gas prices are so high, and am in some ways hoping they continue to rise. Sure, it’s not exactly fun to pay $4+ per gallon for anyone, but maybe, just maybe this will spur some sort of change in this country.  There are pretty much three things that I hope will come from a continual rise in gas prices. Sadly, I would say almost all of them seem unlikely to happen in this culture.

The first is an increase in funding towards alternative forms of energy, both for vehicles and for buildings.  Perhaps if gas prices rise high enough and stay there (which, once they are there, they seem to remain) the public will begin demanding that our government look into cleaner, more efficient, technologies.  This is unlikely though, because conservatives will paint it as wasting tax-payers money when we could just be drilling for gas off-shore or in ANWR, despite the fact that neither of these solutions offer what people want: lower gas prices(1). That said, I don’t imagine many people fighting for increasing government funding of cleaner technologies like wind-generated electricity when what we “need” are lower gas prices. I imagine an outcry of “FEDERAL GOVERNMENT – FUNDING “WIND” ELECTRICITY WITH GAS PRICES AT $4.00 PLUS – WHERE ARE THEIR PRIORITIES”. I guess a guy can dream though.

The second reason I (somewhat secretly) hope gas prices go up is that perhaps it will spur more people to use cleaner methods of transportation, whether public transport, walking, or bicycling.  Of course there are many rural areas where public transport isn’t prevalent. Still, even these rural areas have local stores that provide essentially the same products as big supermarkets and that are usually within walking or biking range. My hope is that high gas prices make people realize that they don’t have to go so far to get lettuce, especially now that a lot of small towns have local farm stands (my small town has at least two) where all sorts of fruits and vegetables are sold.   While there are obviously sometimes when you’ll need to drive, for a lot of daily necessities, there is no reason to drive when you can walk or bike. Sure, it might not be as easy or convenient as driving, but it’s both more money in your pocket, and less pollution.  Still, I don’t see much of this happening unless gas prices keep rising because a lot of habits are hard to break. If you ALWAYS drive to City X that’s 15 miles to buy your groceries, it’s probably not as easy to just start walking or biking somewhere closer. Of course, this wouldn’t be such an issue if we had clean electricity (ie. Wind power, and even nuclear if it’s done correctly) and more electric cars*.

The third reason is where the schadenfreude comes in. This may sound a bit petty, but honestly, I hope gas prices stay where they are or go up so all the assholes who flaunt their Hummers with license plates that say things like “5 MPG” get screwed over every single time they fill up to take the kids to soccer practice. Whatever happened to using a mini-van for that, seriously. Maybe that will make them realize how pointless their purchase of a Hummer was when all they use it for is to cart their kids around Suburbia. Maybe it will make them realize just how stupid they look next to a Honda Civic Hybrid, or a Prius, or a Tesla Roadster. Of course, this is the least likely to happen because the personality types that seem to be attracted to flaunting things like getting <10 MPG in their vehicle.

Stay tuned for Shadowing Part IV and Montréal Adventures

*For those who say electric cars are for girls, or not powerful enough, I suggest you take a look at the Tesla Roadster


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