19 October 2005

Gasoline prices

I just came across an article that explains, in plain language, why gas prices, despite soaring over $3 per gallon, are still relatively cheap in the US - but at a huge cost to society.

People elsewhere pay up to $6 per gallon, mostly in taxes, but the money is re-invested in mass transit, infrastructure, and other improvements that make it easier to get around, whether by car or otherwise. Thanks to the neocon ideology, plus a detrimental short-term effect in the current car-dependent setup, the same deal will not happen in the United States.

In fact, the article points out that car ownership is a status symbol, and a symbol of freedom, in the American society, with bigger being better. (Case in point: my father, who refuses to drive anything smaller than a 13-mpg Ford Econoline.) Or more cars than one needs - I am guilty myself of having two cars for my personal use, one of them a BMW, and both with six-cylinder engines. But then, given that Southern California has awful mass transit and that at least one working car is always a necessity, my wasteful lifestyle will have to continue - for now. I do wonder, as I drive the congested Los Angeles freeways, how much more efficient - and faster - it would be, if the freeways were commuter railroads instead; they don't need the width of 8-lane freeways either.

I just read an editorial off of a BMW enthusiast newsletter where the writer was fearing the return of 55-mph national speed limits. Given the pathetic infrastructure improvements in America, the potholes and increasing traffic (which could've been diverted to rail and other mass transit otherwise) may indeed slow me down to a mandatory 55 in the near future anyway. Most car enthusiasts will blame the Democrats for their zeal for useless regulations; I will blame the Republicans for not investing enough in usable infrastructure "in the name of tax cuts." Even the rich will lose in those tax cuts after all, it seems - they can buy 155-mph Mercedes, but potholes and traffic will slow them down to the pace of the working-class Corollas.

MSNBC Article