Sunday, December 9, 2007

7 cents a gallon

Today I learned that some countries are selling gas for 7 cents a gallon.

7 cents.

Sounds like breaking into the candy store, doesn't it? I'd put my kids straight in the car and drive them to San Francisco tomorrow. I'm dying for them to see Big Sur -- I have some best friends out there -- The Golden Gate Bridge...

For a number of years, a number of years ago now, my mother lived on Tortola, a very small British Virgin Island near Saint John. Gas was really expensive there. I don't really remember how much, I couldn't even drive when we started our annual camping trips there -- but I want to say 4$ a gallon at a time when it was a little over a dollar here. Don't quote me on that; the point is, it was a whole lot more. I remember at the time being rather shocked. It didn't matter that much -- the whole island is about 14 miles long and bumpy hills you avoid driving on anyway. Best to sit at the beach all day drinking Pina Coladas.

But it did register then that there was something off about US gas prices. That other countries were making decisions about taxes that changed how their citizens thought about their personal relationship to oil and gas. Ever since then I've thought we should be paying a lot more for gas in this country.

The article I learned about the 7 cent gas prices from was in the NYTimes, on the front page of the World Economy section. It had an entirely different point -- having to do with leading exporting countries -- I intend to spend next week focusing on the issue of Peak Oil.

But 7 cents a gallon. Again, what do we value -- what do we give import to by our language and by our pricing. We as people, on this earth. I'm not sure that $3 a gallon isn't the same thing exactly. Were it really to cost $20 a gallon to run a car, we would do things differently. We would buy tandem bikes, we would slow down our lives enough to take the bus to work...

"Oil-Rich Nations Use More Energy, Cutting Exports"
is the headline.

When I first talked about the media use of "oil-rich," I imagined what news stories look like if we transfered out the implied value of money and replaced it with some other value -- "kindness-rich," "soil-rich," "butterfly-rich."

But maybe it's the reverse; maybe our adjectives need to take a real look at the decisions we are making: "dying albatross-rich," "toxin-rich," "entitlement-rich" "squander-rich."

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