A Nickel for your Thoughts

My random thoughts about politics, cars, computers, sports, the environment and so on. For free. And that's about what they're worth.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gas Price Armageddon! Not.

I listen to news radio on the way to the park and ride every morning (a ride which I currently share with my brother in law, who is staying in our place while he's looking for better roommate situation). Every morning it's the same, uh, "breaking" story: gas is sooo expensive. Everyone has an idea for how to solve this "problem." Stop adding oil to the strategic reserve, tax the oil companies more (yeah, that'll help), repeal the Federal gas tax, drill in the ANWR, and blah, blah, blah.

My question is: There's a problem?

Gas has been too cheap for too long in this country. We're pissing and moaning because gas costs $3.00/gallon. Do you know how much a gallon of "petrol" costs in the UK? It's 96 pence (0.96 pounds) per liter. There are 3.785 liters in a gallon, which means their gas costs 3.6 pounds per gallon. The current exchange rate is $1.82 per pound, so gas in the UK costs about $6.60 per gallon. I believe this is mostly because gasoline is taxed much more heavily in the UK and most of Europe than it is here.

How on Earth do those poor Brits cope? It's pretty simple really. They ride buses and "the tube" and trains and fly on ultra-cheap Ryanair and EasyJet flights. When they do drive, they usually do it in tiny 1 to 1.5-liter cars that get 50 miles to the gallon or more, unless they're loaded, then they drive a diesel Mercedes that gets 30 miles to the gallon.

Personally, I think gas costs about what it should cost right now. It needs to be expensive enough that a few people will decide to leave their Suburbans and Excursions and Escalades and F350s in the garage (or at a park-and-ride, where I leave my old 4-cylinder Ford Ranger) and ride a bus or a train to work (or carpool) instead of driving. It needs to be expensive enough that people will make fuel economy a factor in deciding what kind of car to buy, even if they make a good living. It needs to be expensive enough that people will maintain their cars so they get the best possible mileage (and lowest emissions, as a bonus). And, for the long term, it needs to be expensive enough that people will demand better public transportation infrastructure and governments will deliver that, as well as plan suburban growth in such a way that most places can be efficiently served by public transportation.

Three-dollar-per-gallon (or more) gas is something that the rest of the world has had to deal with for years. Now it's our turn. Hopefully we do it in an intelligent way.