Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Still cheap enough to waste

Regular gasoline prices in Savannah are hovering around $3.20 per gallon. The president of the United States of America has urged citizens to conserve fuel. News stories like this suggest bicycles are selling smartly, as motorists grow weary of pouring their paychecks into holes in the sides of their cars.

Yet I've detected little change on the streets of this town. On my commute to work, I see only a handful of other cyclists, but plenty of single occupant automobiles.

I don't expect to people to divest themselves of fuel-inefficient vehicles overnight, but I am surprised to see them left idling for half an hour in the fire lane outside the supermarket. Or for 15 minutes at the front door of the video store. I'm puzzled to see people treating traffic signals like the Christmas tree at the Savannah Dragway, stomping on the accelerator for the holeshot and best E.T. to the next intersection.

Having witnessed this sort of behavior again and again over the last couple weeks, I can only conclude that gasoline is still cheap enough to waste. At least on some things.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue effectively shut down the state's public school system for two days last week to conserve fuel. I liked what Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman had to say about this in his column Fool shortage? Unfortunately, not in Georgia (registration may be required). Here's a snip:
We may bounce around the bottom in SAT scores, and almost half of our kids may leave school without a diploma, but hey, what's really important is saving enough gas to run our SUVs, right?

Sorry, I just can't get over the stupidity of that move. Forget the inconvenience to parents caused by Gov. Sonny Perdue's sudden announcement. Forget its utter futility in terms of energy saved. Think instead about the symbolism of it -- to our children, to their teachers, to businesses thinking of locating here.

When things get just a little bit tough, when it's time to separate the necessary from the frivolous, what do our leaders instinctively offer up for sacrifice? Education.

Or, to ask it another way, what does it tell you when high school is canceled, but high school football games aren't?
Is our governor suggesting that school busses, perhaps the most efficient motor vehicles on Georgia roads when it comes passenger miles per gallon, are the problem? Or is it filling station owners? Local television news broadcasts endlessly repeat gouging hotline numbers motorists may ring if they suspect their local gasmonger is trying to cheat them.

Lumbering school buses and evil convenience store owners, they make excellent scapegoats. By focusing our blame on them, we can avoid facing the real problem that got us into this mess: our lifestyles and driving habits, which are too often the same thing.

1 comment:

Marc said...

This blog is pure joy. I am pleased it exists for my killing-time-at-work reading pleasure.

Your bike uptopia post was especially splendid.

And when Bike Year is complete you should publish it as a book.

I get 95 percent of the profits for the idea, though.