Monday, May 01, 2006

Thoughts On Fuel Prices

I found a story this morning from the SF Chronicle about the fuel prices and most of Washington's short-sighted efforts to address the problem. Definitely worth a read. I don't know if anyone else around here has noticed that most of the solutions being suggested all really stop short of addressing what I think is the root problem: We've developed our towns, cities and suburbs in a fashion that gives us no choice but to drive everywhere we need to go. Most people don't have an option. From the story:

"The oil companies may be raising it a few cents, but that's not where the action is,'' said Severin Borenstein, director of the UC Energy Institute in Berkeley.

More important factors are limited refining capacity, uncertainty about world markets and a seemingly insatiable demand for gasoline. Investment in alternative fuels or domestic drilling might boost energy supplies down the road, but the quicker way to get prices to drop would be to curb demand, something politicians believe that Americans aren't ready to hear.

"There seems to be no political traction for reducing demand,'' Borenstein said. "Consumers don't want to hear about making any changes from the plentiful gasoline of the 1990s. And unfortunately, short of colonizing the Middle East ... there isn't a way back to that.''

The determination to keep energy flowing was evident this week when Bush declared the nation must break its addiction to oil, then promptly announced that energy suppliers are being investigated to make sure the addicts -- American motorists -- can purchase their fix at a fair price. The next step, he said, is to boost production so energy junkies can support their habit more cheaply.

I know that urging people to drive less and reduce their dependence on oil would be a great idea, but I think the problem is that most people don't have that option. They live 50 minutes from their job by car, and can't do any of their basic daily tasks without having to get in a car. This requires more work to reduce car trips, requiring transit in places where it doesn't work well, carpooling in a culture that views the lone driver as an inalienable right, and the need to sacrifice, which is patently un-American these days.

This reminds me of a recent post from Richard Layman's DC blog that I read everday where he was addressing President Bush's advocacy of hydrogen as the fuel of the future:
Hydrogen sounds like an energy "cure" not so much for oil dependency but to ward off challenges to the sprawl paradigm of more and more development farther and farther out. Rather than develop a planning and transportation paradigm that is more sustainable, it appears as if hydogen is touted as the next generation fuel to power the cars that fill the ribbons of roads that make up our asphalt nation.


On another note, I found another blog worth checking out from time to time if you're interested in the growth- and city-related things I write about. The LincolnLog from Lincolnton, NC does a great job of keeping tabs on downtown revitalization and preservation in what looks to be a great place to live NW of Charlotte.