Written by Bob Woelk Tuesday, 12 August 2008 14:00
When gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon this summer, many of us were tempted to just throw up our hands and say, “What are you gonna do?” The price of oil seemed to be controlled by a few speculators on the futures market and the big companies who turn crude into fuel.
But, take heart. There are some things that can be done, and the recent drop in prices at the pump is the evidence.
For now, at least, Americans have shown that $4 is the tipping point, the price where we begin to think about the unthinkable—parking our gas guzzlers and pulling the bikes out of the attic.
But, lest we become too giddy over $3.55 petrol, we should remind ourselves that we were paying less than that a year ago, and all it will take is a sheik in the Middle East getting a head cold to send the cost of fuel skyrocketing again. I believe, however, there are things we can do to affect the market in the long run.
First, we need to send a strong message to automakers that we will not buy any vehicles that don’t get at least 30 miles to the gallon. Already we have seen the car ads switch to touting mpg over mph and horsepower. The government has failed to spur Detroit to improve efficiency, but the American public can get the job done. We can vote with our wallets.
I believe the technology exists to make full-size pickup trucks that get twice the miles per gallon and still produce the power we expect from a heavy hauler.
We should support offshore drilling for oil, with one or two important stipulations: all domestic production must stay in the United States for our use. Currently, nearly all the oil found under and around Alaska goes to Japan. While that may reduce the demand worldwide, it doesn’t do much for us.
In addition, oil companies must first show that they are making full use of the areas in which they are already being permitted to drill. Their “dirty little secret,” as recently exposed in the Wichita Eagle, that they are keeping from us is that they are only drilling in a fraction of those areas. How is it going to help to open more if they aren’t going after what they already have?
We can refuse to vote for an oilman for president of the United States, and we can deny our support of those who have a hand in big oil’s pockets.
We can…gulp…listen to T. Boone Pickens. The Texas oil billionaire has suddenly become an apostle of wind power and a switch to natural gas for propelling our cars and trucks.
Of course, he likely has an ulterior motive (profits from the sale of energy and water, for example), but at least he has American politicians’ attention. His dire predictions of what will happen to the world economy when we run out of fossil fuels should be heeded now. Let’s not make the mistake of being lulled back to sleep as we did after the oil embargo of the 1970s.
While not everyone agrees, I happen to think a giant windmill is a thing of beauty. I would not mind one in my backyard.
As a side note, I heard a Wichita State “expert” tell a TV reporter the other day that we need to be cautious with wind power because we don’t know what effect the propellers may have on the environment, how Kansas breezes might be affected by them.
I’m no expert on the subject, but isn’t the wind affected by everything we do? When we erect a building. When we plant a tree. When we put up a new housing development. When we park two cars in our driveway instead of one. The idea that wind somehow diminishes as it turns a blade seems ludicrous to me.
We should get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible. Imagine how much fuel is being consumed over there that could be placed in our national reserve or redistributed to truckers and farmers, who have been hit hard by the rising costs of operating their machinery.
It is no secret that price tags on all consumer products are going up and will continue to do so as the costs of creating and transporting goods spirals unchecked into the stratosphere. By bringing our troops and equipment home, we could save many thousands of gallons of fuel each day.
Finally, on a grassroots level, we must continue to seek ways to lower our own consumption of petrol. Form carpools, ride bikes and walk whenever possible. We will also reap the health benefits from more exercise. It is a fact that when prices hit $4 at the pump this summer, consumption fell, people slowed down and the price of gas dropped.
We should follow the lead of the Europeans, who have been paying much higher prices at the pump for years. They have made public transportation a priority.
We can make a difference, but Americans are stubborn and self-reliant enough to jump right back into setting the cruise at 75, using the car to drive two or three blocks to the grocery store and taking three vehicles when one will do.
I have already seen evidence of this on the highways in the past couple of weeks.
If we demonstrate that we are willing to go back to consumption as usual with the current $3.50 gasoline, can prices of $4.50 or more be that far away?