Monday, May 21, 2007

The minions are angry...

In the past week or two, it's been building. I'm talking about the incessant whining and complaining about fuel prices. Today, the tension seems like it's about to the breaking point. People are really, really angry today. I noticed this in the coffee shop this morning, and now that I've been here at work for a few hours, I've heard non-stop belly-aching about the cost of a gallon of 87-octane gasoline.

I'm seeing it online too. In peoples' blogs, in their forum postings, and even in e-mails. It's not just one place, it seems to be everywhere. People are talking about how many hours they need to work in order to buy fuel to get to and from work every day. People are thinking of asking employers for a raise to cover fuel costs. People are demanding to be allowed one day of telecommuting per week, or flex schedules with four 10-hour days per week.

What are people NOT doing?

Well, for one, I haven't noticed a severe increase in bus ridership in the morning. My bus is usually pretty crowded, but it's a pretty consistent group of people. I don't see many new faces, no matter which of the buses I take.

I don't notice a lot of car-pooling going on, either. The parking lot is just as crowded this week as it was 2 months ago. I can say that motorcycle use has increased a lot, but it's about the same now as it was when I started working here back in July. When the weather is nice, two-wheeled transportation sees a boom. I'm sure motorcycle use won't be much higher this year. It's hard to justify spending thousands of dollars all at once and pay higher insurance to save a few cents per mile when the weather is nice.

Anyways, it seems that there's a lot of complaining going on for nothing. Even if people are driving big pick-ups and SUVs, car-pooling with one other person, and trading off which days they drive will result in about 50% fuel savings. It's like moving halfway closer to work. Adding a third person to the pool will net even more savings. How many people drive vehicles that won't seat 3 adults comfortably? Sure, I see the occasional Miata, Corvette, or Boxster in the parking garage. More than those, I see plenty of Corollas, Accords, Fusions, and other mid-size sedans, then there are the crew-cab pickups and SUVs.

Anyhow, I'm pretty tired of listening to all this pissing and moaning about fuel prices. As long as the demand for fuel is on the rise, the prices will be on the rise. I wouldn't be surprised if bus fares climb an additional 25 cents per trip, either.

People need to learn that actions speak louder than words. 200 years ago, we banded together and fought a ruthless force. We stood our ground in the name of independence. Today, our country is seemingly occupied by a bunch of wussies that only know how to cry in the corner while helplessly surrendering.

The situation is not helpless. You don't need to "shut up and drive." You can do something about it. You won't change oil prices or demand in a week or even in a month by reducing your personal usage. You can reduce the effects of oil prices impacting your bottom line, though. If enough people do it, demand may fall to the point where a gallon of gasoline simply isn't worth $3 to the average person. As it stands, gas could climb to $5 per gallon and the majority of our society would continue to drive, complaining all the way to the pump.


Fritz said...

Speaking of independence, I read an interesting comparison recently. A few years ago Unocal was up for sale. A Chinese state-owned oil company made a bid for Unocal; Congressional intervention ensured the Chinese would not own this American corporation.

In the meanwhile, we transfer more than the equivalent wealth of an Unocal to the Middle East every month when we fill up our pickups and SUVs and Mazdas and Corollas.

Just keep spreading the good word and eventually maybe somebody will pick up on it.

Brett said...

Why are Mazdas and Corollas in this conversation? Corollas get 34mpg ..Mazda Miatas get 30 mpg? They shouldn't be in the sentence as pickups and SUV's.

Frogman said...

Miatas only carry two people. A regular pickup can usually carry 3 or more if it's extended. It's the people-per-mile-per-gallon argument that busses have. Sure a bus gets terrible mileage, but when it's averaged over the number of riders it's pretty good. A Miata is going to maximize at saving 50% of fuel with two riders. (well, a bit less due to the added weight and extra miles to pick up another rider..)

Noah said...

Indeed. Why did I mention mid-size cars? The question was about vehicles that can carry at least 3 people. While a Miata or Boxster can only carry the driver and a single passenger, mid-size cars, crew-cab pickups and SUVs do have one thing in common: Easy capacity for a 3-person car pool that could net all participants nearly 2/3 saving on fuel costs.

Let's say a 3-person pool gets started. Each person takes turns. If one person in the car pool drives a Navigator, another person drives a Fusion, and the third person drives a Mazda 3 sedan, each person will still be driving once every 3 days. The person driving the Navigator will still be spending more on fuel than anyone else, but he'll still save a considerable amount of money on fuel costs by car pooling.

If you only car pool with one co-worker or neighbor, any car capable of carrying two people will work. But, when sharing the ride with one other person, you trade off days and only save roughly 50% on fuel.

Remember, my primary motivation for bike-bus commuting is simply to save some cash while getting into shape. People can save cash by car-pooling. Yes, there are environmental and traffic benefits to mass transit and car pooling as well.

I would never presume to be able to tell someone what they can and cannot drive. What I can do is help people utilize the resources that they have in such a way as to save money. It's ultimately your choice. I couldn't care less if someone drives a diesel semi tractor to work 80 miles every day and double parks it on my parking garage, leaves it idling all day while we're at work, and drives it back home, burning 60 gallons of fuel per day. It's not my money. I might ask if they'd considered taking the bus, though. ;)

Jay said...

I'm convinced that if gas went up to $15/gallon, people might have to live in tents & search dumpsters for food, but they'd still drive to work all alone in large vehicles.

Noah said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry about that, but as pathetic as it sounds, your prediction might not be too far off.

A Midnight Rider said...

You make a good case for building a public transportation infrastructure. It's time.

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