Politrix: Pain in the Gas

So, living in The City (that’s New York, to you), I don’t get behind the wheel very often. But last weekend, we rented a car and drove down to Baltimore for my stepdaughter’s birthday. Talk about a rude awakening: Reading that gas is expensive is quite different from shelling out $59 to fill up the tank. And that’s with waiting until we hit South Jersey to refuel our “intermediate” model, where, at $4.39 a gallon, gas was much cheaper than closer to home. Times sure have changed; I remember when putting $4 in my daddy’s tank before I parked the car in the driveway was big shit.

And this is only the beginning. Remember a few weeks ago when I told you that oil had topped a record-breaking $127 a barrel, and put y’all on about how Bush is trying to drive you to use your stimulus to check to pay for gas? Well, the saga continues: This past Friday, oil shot up to $135.09, the result of the emaciated dollar, increased demand in developing nations and sluggish production worldwide. Analysts are now predicting that oil will climb to $150 a barrel by the Fourth of July, prompting $7 a gallon gas (my condolences to the London Parlour maids who are shelling out the equivalent of $8 a gallon). So I hope we’re all ready to walk to the family barbecues this year.

But will we be? Are we all prepared to take a few steps away from the pump to drive down demand, and therefore prices? Of course I can ask this question with a smug smile on my face because my aching feet and the filthy subway are my main modes of transport, but as a whole, will we find ways to get around that don’t put money in the pockets of George Bush Big Oil? (Close your mouth. The Nation broke news of the Bush Administration’s ties to the oil industry back in 2002; it’s not just fodder for conspiracy theorists. Think about it, why put real time and money into developing alternative fuels if the continued use of petroleum pads your bank account? And then there’s this war…)

Anyway, I’m skeptical that we will wake from our slumber, but there is some evidence that folks are doing right by their wallets/the planet. Mass transit ridership is up country-wide (which, in turn, is driving up fuel costs for many towns, so be on the lookout for fare increases). And in May, sales of the biggest gas guzzlers were way down over the same time last year, including Hummer H3 (down 60.6%), Yukon (-50.2%) and Durango (-68.8%), while smaller, more fuel-efficient models are selling fast, such as the Focus (up 53.2%), Aveo (+44.3%) and Civic (+28.3%). GM is even considering selling the Hummer brand, and it will close four SUV and truck plants in North America. On the upside, GM also announced that the long-awaited all-electric Chevrolet Volt will finally go into production for release in 2010.

As much as I hate to be wrong, this is once instance where I’m asking you make a fool of me. I’m not suggesting that you have to sell your car and ride your bike to work everyday (what would your hair look like?!). But it would be hot if you traded in your SUV for a more efficient joint, or consolidated your weekend errands into a single trip, or telecommute one day a week, or bought a little motorbike (my husband’s enthusiastic suggestion). It’s about manageable lifestyle tweaks, not a complete retooling of your life.

What will you do?

—Kenrya

If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

Ed. Note: Steely D wants a Vespa…a black one. ;0)

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