Friday, April 21, 2006

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

If I'm going to enjoy my weekend, I have to get this out of my system now, so please bear with me.

I am completely outraged by the extreme apathy and inexplicable lack of action by those around me regarding the discussion of gas prices. Obviously, everyone I know is upset about them. Clearly, gas prices have risen to the point that it's a little prohibitive for people to just hop in their cars (I'm not even talking about SUVs yet) and take a nice little Sunday afternoon drive without being out $50 when they head to their neighborhood Shell station to fill up. I have yet to meet one person who is absolutely thrilled about paying $3 a gallon, or even worse, the prospect that it's only going to get more expensive as summer approaches. The infuriating part of all of this is that the general public response following any kind of complaining and kvetching is "Well, what are you gonna do?", with the obligatory shoulder shrug and conceding eyebrow lift that says, "Is there anything I can do to make the oil and gas industry more comfortable as it rapes me?"

We are partially at fault for the unreasonable gas prices we're paying. During hurricane season last year, we allowed oil and gas companies to practice organized and sanctioned price gouging while we did little more than whine and pay up. The industry saw that the American public is willing to pay quite a bit of cash to keep gas in their cars, and they have now seized the opportunity to make record profits off our apathy. Meanwhile, Average Joe stands at the pump with his credit card in hand saying, "Wow, I can't believe I'm paying this much for gas!"

Joe, I can't believe you are either, because I for one, refuse. I recognize the fact that, as a young adult with an active social life, a demanding job, and friends and family scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard, it is unreasonable for me to say that I will never drive again. I actually plan on driving to North Carolina in a couple of weeks to see my aunt, and when I look at my gas receipts after the trip, I'm sure I'm going to wish I had bought a plane ticket instead. Despite all this, I do recognize that I have complete control over when and how I spend my money. I've decided that I'm not filling my car up more than once every 5 weeks, and you'd better believe that when I do get gas, it's sure not going to be from Exxon, because they don't need anymore help with their 2nd quarter profits. If I have to carpool with someone, I will. If it takes me a hour to get home because I have to wait in the rain for a bus, I will. If I'm a little late for an outing with a friend because I opted to walk from my office rather than drive my car in, I will.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not naiive enough to think that my personal refusal to feed my gasoline addiction is going to have any kind of effect on market prices. I know it won't. The average American commutes 50 minutes to work, which makes gasoline a necessity, not a luxury. Like all other necessities, though, we can control how much we use.

I am naiive enough to think that maybe some people will start to rethink their gas consumption a little. Maybe you'll decide to make your tank of gas last a few extra days by planning to run errands with a friend, and you can take turns driving. Maybe you'll take a look at the ridiculously inconvenient public transportation schedule where you live and take the bus once a week. Or maybe just walk somewhere today instead of driving?

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