Saturday, September 3, 2005

LIFE: It's a gas gas gas

So, how about those gas prices? Seems like all many people are talking about in the non-flooded parts of the nation -- forget the dead, the homeless, why am I having to pay $3 a gallon for gasoline? Heard a lengthy rant behind me in line at the bagel shop this morning along the lines of that there's plenty of gas if we just tore up Alaska to get it, or invaded Saudi Arabia. I hardly like paying more for gasoline, yet at the same time, I find vaguely repulsive this attitude of all-American entitlement I sense from many of the gasoline complainers, as if the right to cheap gas was somehow inherent in the Constitution.

Yeah, $5+ a gallon as seen at some stations in the South is pretty insane. Yet in many countries, that price range is the norm. In most of Europe, gas runs anywhere from the equivalent of $6 to $8 a gallon these days. So why do Americans, who consume most of the world's resources, think they're somehow exempt?

Conservation is a word we don't see much when it comes to high gas prices. It's all about what can Washington do, how corrupt my gas station owner is, the oil companies suck, et cetera. Yet walking, driving less, and not taking the car on that half-mile jaunt to the grocery store are ideas few seem to take seriously. Many communities barely even have sidewalks anymore, just mile after mile of stripmalls geared to make you drive and spend and drive some more.

I'm unseemly smug about it partly because I don't drive that much, I think, compared to many. We chose to move into a house that was within walking distance from my job, so most days I walk the 1/2 mile or so. Wife Avril walks everywhere, putting me to shame. The days I don't walk to work, I feel vaguely silly driving that short a distance. I fill up my tank maybe twice a month. I drive a Subaru Forester that's pretty efficient.

But what do you do if you do have to live 50 miles from your job and commute? I can't really tell that guy to stop driving to work every day. I've got no easy answers. Perhaps it's time for everyone to start thinking differently, rather than expecting life to always continue the way it has, and everything to be easy, privileged and cheap. I'm as guilty as anyone of loving comfort and ease.

But you know, I feel a lot sorrier for the folks wading in filth and desperation in New Orleans than I do for the guy at the bagel shop bitching about paying $3 a gallon while he orders his triple mocha latte. It's funny to think which crisis is arousing more concern in the American psyche - the human one, or the financial one.

No comments:

Post a Comment