Thursday, May 1, 2008

Maybe $10 a gallon gas isn't such a bad thing...

Standing around the water cooler, a couple of my co-workers were fussing over the idea that gas might get to $7.00 a gallon this summer.

I mulled it over for a second and came to the conclusion that this is probably a good thing. In the short term, it's going to cause a far number of people some serious pain, but in the long term it'll probably go a long way towards helping our environment, local economy and encouraging innovation.

The obvious thing that high priced gas is going to effect is transportation. I like millions of other Americans get up every morning, kiss the wife and kid goodbye, get into my car and drive to work. I had the foresight to buy a pretty fuel efficient vehicle (Honda Civic) I'm getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 37mpg driving at 50mph. My commute is pretty typical at ~30mins. However, even with that said, I've already talked to my boss about working from home. Think about the ramifications of millions of people suddenly driving slower and telecommuting. Not to mention the poor bastards who thought buying an Escalade seemed like a good idea... Think of all the CO2 that won't be going into the atmosphere! Actually I take that back, I have no sympathy for the stupid fuck who buys an Escalade, that's just obscene.

Agriculture is another area that high fuel prices will cause a fundamental shift. As it stands right now a local farm using sustainable farming methods just can't compete with the industrial model. Why is this? There are a number of reasons, but to name a few, it's cheap corn and cheap oil. What happens when suddenly those raw materials become insanely expensive? In a nutshell, I believe we'll see a return to the local farm. Why is it that a steak from a local farmer whose only inputs are sunlight and grass is twice the price of steak that was made from corn and fertilizer? I believe it's because the government subsidizes the latter instead of the former. I have to admit, this idea is not mine, go borrow or buy "The Omnivores Dilemma: A natural History of four meals". You don't have to agree with it or it's premises, but feeding your head has never been a bad thing!

I'm not going to parrot what's said in that book, you should really read it. The author brings up some very good points, not the least of which is that we've basically backed ourselves into a corner. We let several powerful corporations combined with some questionable farm policy and our own willing ignorance to now put us in a situation where our entire food infrastructure is highly centralized and completely out of our control. What's even more frightening is that the food this infrastructure creates is inferior and I believe is killing us.

With that all said, 10$ a gallon gas will do the one thing that I wished 9/11 should have done, which is to get us off oil. Fuel economy and sustainable and renewable energy has stagnated because it was cheaper to just do nothing. The status quo was that the oil would just keep flowing and the argument was to worry about it tomorrow. I call this argument "IJOTH" (Innovation is Just Over The Horizon). Don't worry... some magic thing some guy develops somewhere will fix it! Good luck with that...

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