Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why I love $4/gallon gas...

It's summer again which means rafting season is keeping me busy and disconnected. Not altogether a bad thing...

Though "high" gas prices seem to be keeping business down on the Arkansas River, I still can't help but be happy about gas prices. Here's my top reasons:
1) I'm safer. As a frequent bicycle-commuter and user of the highways for very long training rides (for which bike paths and other non-highway options simply aren't available or are completely impractical due to speed limitations), fewer cars on the road means less risk for me.
2) Youth are safer. It's a pretty widely known fact that the biggest risk to youth, particularly males from 16-25, is driving. Well, of course, those same young people are also one of the demographics most likely to be kept off the road by high gas prices and spend a lot less time driving recklessly and endangering themselves and others.
3) Neighborhoods and communities become stronger. One of my biggest problems with suburban development is people never interact unless forced. People leave their homes inside a steel shell and don't come out until they're many miles away. High gas prices encourage people to look locally for entertainment, shopping, etc. As a result, community and neighborhood identity is built as people get to know their neighbors again.
4) Jobs stay in and return to America. Now that the fuel cost of transporting materials across the oceans multiple times in the course of production has quadrupled, the economics of localized production is starting to look a lot more attractive. Buying "Made in the USA" is no longer just a patriotic statement, it simply makes more sense in an era of expensive fuel.
5) It's good for the many more ways than most people realize. Of course everybody knows now that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels is a likely contributor to potentially dramatic or even catastrophic climate change. But even more immediate and indisputable is what high concentrations of other fossil fuel emissions can do to people's health when concentrated in dense areas (like LA, for example). Almost nobody doubts that thick smog contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems, particularly in the young and elderly. And of course by slowing suburban sprawl, high gas prices fight the trend of bull-dozing and paving over endless miles of agricultural and forested land. There's other ways that heavy use of fuel and large vehicles for transportation degrades environmental quality, but that's for other posts.

I can't help but notice that by failing to enact any meaningful energy policy, the Bush administration has accomplished exactly what Democrats and liberals have wanted for some time. Strong incentives are now in place to keep jobs in America. Strong disincentives are in
place when it comes to environmentally destructive activity. Who knows, maybe Bush is a closet tree-hugging liberal??



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