Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cheap gas now: it's not that cheap, but it isn't good for sustainability anyway

Jeff Sommer has a piece in the New York Times Business on Sunday December 13, 2015 under “Strategies”, “The Thrill and Chills of Dirt-Cheap Gas”, or online “Cheap Gas is a Thrill, but a Costly One
Though gas is now slipping below $2 a gallon, I can remember that in 1969, when I was in the Army atFt. Eustis, the most common price as 36.9 cents a gallon.  The first big spike would come in 1973-1974, with the Arab Oil Embargo.

There are many innovations, with the all-electric car, which depends on a sufficient infrastructure for charging even in rural areas.  Or Param Jaggi’s idea of using algae to remove all emissions from conventional cars. One problem, as Sommer points out, is that when people buy cars today, they keep them much longer than in the past, so replacing a fleet takes about ten years.  Under insurance, I recently replaced a 2009 Focus totaled in an accident (caused by someone else) with as close to the same car as possible, a 2015 Focus.

An important observation is that gas prices affect rural people a lot more than city dwellers, but cheap gas also encourages long commutes and expensive housing in far exurbs.  In the past, it has aided attitudes of de-facto segregation.  
One issue is that, because of my “singleton-ness”, I do most trips by myself, especially in more recent years.  That’s not particularly respectful of moral notions of sustainable behavior.  This gets into the issue of being prepared to participate in other people’s “less than optimally efficient” arrangements and projects to build social capital.

No comments: