I Don’t Really Care How Much Gas Costs

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The price of unleaded gasoline isn't currently the hot topic it was a few summers ago, but it does appear to be creeping back up, at least where I live. But you know what? I don't really care.

Why? Because I like to drive.

Yes, I genuinely enjoy the act of driving. Obviously I'm not the only one, but based on the number of underpowered, conservatively designed, generally lame automobiles I see on the roads these days enthusiasts are definitely in the minority. I know, it's no newsflash that there are millions of people out there clogging up the freeways while driving the automotive equivalent of a Maytag. They probably all have a reason for picking out their particular motoring appliance: it was cheap, it gets 40 miles per gallon, they have 6 kids, they liked the color, they wanted "reliability," or they just needed something to get them from point A to point B (Camry!). Offer any of them an unlimited budget and they would probably trade up, but I'd bet dollars to donuts it still wouldn't be very interesting. Probably a Buick. Or a Prius.

The last gasoline "crisis" pushed costs well over $4 per gallon in some areas and it certainly contributed to the current glut of boring cars. This led the masses to dump the Suburban they were using to drive solo in to work for a more "economical" compact sedan. It also brought forth the humorous activity of price-gouging on hybrid autos as well as easily one of the top-ten legislative ideas of all time: Cash for Clunkers (sarcasm). High gas prices ultimately led to the death of Hummer, and it forced automakers (other than Toyota) to finally put some legitimate R&D into hybrid and electric cars. Equally important is what that last crisis did NOT lead to: a lasting reduction in miles driven by Americans. Nor has it brought upon the death of performance/sports cars or large trucks and SUVs (thank goodness). Fuel prices eventually came back down and America's short attention span kicked back in.

I actually think that even at $3 a gallon gas is still relatively cheap. No, seriously, think about it. Most of you are probably aware that the majority of Europeans pay over twice that. True, the car of choice across the pond is often a small hatch or wagon (mostly diesel), but there are plenty of thirsty large sedans and Land Rovers meandering about, not to mention tarted-up Vauxhalls, Fords and Abarths. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, Europe's fuel price is high relative to ours due to taxes. I don't know what the rest of their tax burden is like, but I could get behind a similar tax here in the States, so long as all of the money went straight back into the roads. This massive amount of additional funds could be used for repairing existing roads, adding lanes, updating infrastructure (anybody remember that overpass that failed in Minnesota not too long ago?) and new mass-transit. Now, why would someone who claims to love to drive want new mass-transit? Simple, I want that option available so that other people can use it. Fancy light rail should get some of these econobox clowns off of the road so that I can actually go the speed limit (at least) during rush hour. Probably won't happen; Americans love to drive and there are more and more drivers every day, but one can dream.


Now there are certainly some serious downsides to a high gas tax, and it's not something that I am advocating, it's just that if one were to take effect you wouldn't hear me complaining. There are other routes to eventual higher prices (Mid East instability, environmental disasters, supply constraints, etc), and as the cost of a gallon of gas continues to rise I will continue to pay. It means that I can still attack that traffic circle, blast away from a stop light, heel-and-toe through a free right turn and take advantage of other little bits of fun during my daily commute. And a high gas price could also help out enthusiast drivers in other ways too. The common motorist might actually think about their driving habits more, and by doing so, drive less. They may buy a bike or carpool or combine all errands into one day or evening. They would actually consider moving closer to work or taking the bus. A higher gas price potentially equals more cars off of the road, which technically should result in more open road for me, although the caveat mentioned above likely still holds. Hippie green environmentalists would even rejoice- probably while acting smug in their hybrid- as it means people will be buying less gas and therefore not killing our beloved planet as fast.

So, because I enjoy driving I do not care how much a gallon of premium unleaded gasoline ultimately costs me. I don't care about my fuel economy either. Of course, like everyone else who's last name isn't Gates or Buffet, I don't like overpaying for anything. However, because I like to drive I am willing to adjust my lifestyle when the price of fuel increases so that I can continue to put petrol into my fuel tank, especially if a higher price prevents more idiots from jamming up my commute. It's pretty simple actually; one just needs (uh, in addition to an income) the discipline to eliminate monthly spending out of another category or two: maybe not spend $100/month at the Starbucks or pay $10 for lunch every day. Hmmmmm? Maybe even cut the cable/dish bill and go get a library card. Oh wait, I forgot that this is an American Blog, scratch that last suggestion.