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Author Topic: $5/gallon for 5 years  (Read 2585 times)

enigmacat*

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« on: September 28, 2005, 01:21:53 PM »
What it would take a make a lasting change in america's gas consumption, and why katrina won't.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2126981/nav/tap1/

this is very interesting - i'd like to hear thoughts from others.

Offline enigmacat

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2005, 01:24:23 PM »
whoa .. it didn't make me log in.

Offline merm

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2005, 01:55:24 PM »
Thanks for the heads up. Gonna change that... :)

Offline lanseaux

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2005, 02:28:00 PM »
Enigmacat, this is very interesting, and the issue is extremely important right now.  However, this article has a fundamental flaw by not starting with - not even mentioning - the 1973 oil crisis.    This is the gas crisis that did change American driving habits, rather than anything that happened in 1979.  Those events, while significant, were part of a continuum of gas crises, and near the end of them.

I remember the gas lines, the locking gas caps, and the sugar crisis (which I recall as being somehow related) of the early 1970s.  This is when Congress mandated the national 55 mph speed limit, carpooling became popular, and cars were produced that had substantially better gas mileage.   When it came time for us to trade in our mid-60s Beetle, our new purchase was in direct response to the gas crisis - we bought a (new) '74 Ford Pinto station wagon that got 25 mpg.  (we traded that in in 1980 for a diesel Rabbit, btw.)

Initially, it seemed that conservation was making inroads, and I remember as advertising shifted from performance to fuel economy as top selling points - and then back again as the 80s wore on.  Reagan's energy policies were discouraging to conservation efforts (to say the least), and I believe the growing openess of the connections between the US energy industry and the US government is both a cause and a symptom of the difficulties facing those who want to emphasise conservation today.

Fuel economy standards were enacted in response to the 1973 oil crisis.  They resulted in the doubling of fuel economy in cars by the end of the 1970s.  Since then, there have been no meaningful increases, and - more harmfully, I think - an increase in exemption of vehicles from CAFE standards by reclassifying them as "light trucks" - like the Hummer, for instance (which weighs more than a Japanese fighter plane in WWII).  What has happened?  Corporate insistence in equating conservation with less profit - and indeed, for many in the administration today, conservation does result in less profit for them.  

The basic framework to change people's attitudes is already in place, and has been for 30 years.  Despite corporate resistance in the 1970s, regulatory standards were introduced that did make a difference (and without them, we'd be in even worse shape today).  This is an area that will not regulate itself in favour of conservation.  There seems to be a popular recognition at the moment that something needs to be done, which needs to be seized by environmental groups and those in both industry and government who care about the issue.  We certainly need more than Bush's declaration that if we can, we should "drive a little less", which is kind of like saying not to buy lightbulbs if you don't have any sockets to put them in.

Offline enigmacat

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2005, 03:08:08 PM »
hey, you should send this to the author or post it in the "fray".

as for me, well, in the 1973 oil crisis i had not even been thought about yet.

Offline megc

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gas woes in the exurbs
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2005, 08:03:14 AM »
I came across this interesting article from The Nation, about how rising gas prices are affecting poor exurban communities.  The communities in the article are in Siskiyou County, in the northern part of the state of California, my home state,  here. It is gorgeous out there, though, and I miss its beauty.  I do not miss the gas woes, though.  We all are very fortunate here to have options other than driving.  

http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20051017&s=abramsky

Running on Fumes

by SASHA ABRAMSKY

[from the October 17, 2005 issue]

More than 100 miles north of Sacramento, the flat farmlands of California's Central Valley give way to the forested mountains and breathtaking grasslands surrounding the 14,000-foot Mount Shasta. It is a remote landscape--more akin to Wyoming's Big Sky Country than to the rest of California--dominated by the glacier-covered Shasta and the menacing clouds that frequently cluster around its peak; and, when the tourists and the second-homers from the Bay Area and elsewhere in the region are factored out, it is a poor landscape. It is also a place where distance is an irreducible fact of daily life. Because so many residents rely on cars to get between the far-flung towns, they are particularly vulnerable to oil price fluctuations, and many are at risk of economic catastrophe as gas prices at the pump soar.

The towns strung along Interstate 5 and at points east and west of the highway, hamlets like Dunsmuir, Weed, Fort Jones, Callahan and Yreka, ooze character. Yreka--one of the few towns in the region not to have witnessed a population decline since 1990--still calls itself "the Golden City," a throwback to its glory days in the mid-nineteenth century, and still boasts Wild West saloons and elegant Victorian edifices along its central drags, Main and Miner streets. Similarly, the little railway town of Dunsmuir continues to pride itself on its charming, somehow anachronistic, eccentricity--in the window of a downtown law office is a plaster-cast skeleton reclining in a dentist's chair, an aviator's leather cap and goggles adorning its skull.

But all the character in the world can't hide the fact that these are low-income communities--poor cousins to the tourist town of Mount Shasta itself, where "log cabins" sell for $1 million.

Close to 10 percent of Siskiyou County's workforce is unemployed. For those with jobs, money is tight: According to Bureau of Economic Analysis data, the county's per capita personal income is $23,807, only 76 percent of the national average, placing it forty-third of fifty-eight California counties. Leave out the government jobs in the county seat of Yreka, and the numbers are even worse: The unincorporated town of McCloud, for example, has a per capita income of slightly less than $16,000.

[Go to article for the rest]

daveed

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2005, 11:18:17 AM »
Trying to dig up rusty memories of econ, which I don't recommend doing before having your morning caffeine...

Gasoline is a good example of what I understand to be an "inelastic good". IOW, increase in price tends not to have an inverse affect on demand. As the Slate article mentions, it's because we don't have readily available, viable alternatives.

Look at gasoline prices in Europe. People routinely pay the equivalent of $5-7 for a gallon of gas, but it doesn't seem to affect their driving habits. I don't know how public transportation use or availability compares with here, though, but I bet there are more fuel efficient cars on the road.

Quote from: lanseaux
This is an area that will not regulate itself in favour of conservation.


Exactly. Nor will it in favor of temporary economic pinches. Or maybe even longer ones. I don't know exactly how much leeway oil companies and gas stations have in setting prices (it may be regulated to avoid price fixing -- does anyone know?) but I believe that people will still consume about as much even if they're paying $5/gal for 5 years. Even now with gas just about $3/gal, is anyone hearing grumbling from the SUV owners out there?

We need to develop alternative fuel sources for a myriad of reasons, conservation being just one of them. I'm a huge fan of fuel cell technology, and GM has been plowing money into research. But because gasoline is so inelastic, there's simply not enough incentive to press onward with this.

Offline lanseaux

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2005, 01:50:30 PM »
Quote from: daveed
Look at gasoline prices in Europe. People routinely pay the equivalent of $5-7 for a gallon of gas, but it doesn't seem to affect their driving habits. I don't know how public transportation use or availability compares with here, though, but I bet there are more fuel efficient cars on the road.

<snip>

 Even now with gas just about $3/gal, is anyone hearing grumbling from the SUV owners out there?

Driving habits in Europe are quite different than here.  Cars are more fuel efficient and public transportation is much more pervasive and used.  I've lived in the suburbs in France (outside a major city) and Switzerland (outside a small city), and used public transportation on a daily basis in both places with ease.

This article from Wikipedia on fuel efficiency contains a direct comparison of European vs. American fuel efficiency.  A couple of other articles:  Green Car Congress US-European comparisons; Christian Science Monitor comparison article.

There was an article in the NY Times yesterday discussing the steep fall-off (43%) in new SUV purchases for the month of September compared to a year ago (the same article notes that the Big 3 Japanese automakers had sales rise by ~10-15% for the same period):

Quote
At Ford, sales of the Explorer, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator fell more than 50 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. The company also built its last Excursion in the month, ending production of its largest S.U.V.

At G.M., sales of the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe fell more than 50 percent, while the GMC Yukon was down 46 percent and the Cadillac Escalade fell nearly 23 percent, with the supersize Escalade ESV falling 40 percent. Sales of the Hummer H2, made by G.M., fell 32 percent.

daveed

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$5/gallon for 5 years
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2005, 06:26:13 PM »
Thanks for the links, especially the NYT article.

SUV on the cheap, anyone? I'm sure in about 10 years time those Expeditions and Hummers will be retro-chic... :D


 

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