May 2, 2006

Anti-Everything Gas Rant

My car has 1/5 a tank of gas left and I'm getting jumpy. Gas prices here in LA are about $3.30 a tank and this is one dollar-store shopper who can't imagine a refill right now. I was out driving this morning and got a sick feeling of woe when I saw the sagging gas gauge. It's only a matter of days now when I too will have to spend close to $30 to refill my 8 gallon tank.

But I'm more excited than upset about high gas prices. I've been a big advocate of fuel efficient cars for a long time now but the stumbling block to any kind of change in this direction was the convenience of the gasoline economy in which we currently exist. Now that gas prices are actually becoming a deterrent to transportation, I am hoping for a leap in support of alternate fuel sources. Europe gives me hope. Most European households only own a single car (if any) and public transportation is widely used due to the high price of gas over there. They have a highly efficient rail system and dirt cheap plane tickets between countries. I hope Americans are truly humbled by these rising gas prices and forced to abandon our current, wasteful ways in favor of more environment friendly, society friendly alternatives.

My car is a 96 Toyota Tercel that gets about 35 miles to the gallon city and 40 highway. It's not as fuel efficient as I would like and I'm hoping someday to get a Prius but I don't feel immoral driving it across town for ice cream. One of my neighbors drives a huge truck which gets 7 miles to the gallon - and even worse in stop and go traffic. She doesn't use the truck bed - she just likes the look of the vehicle and cruises around town burning gas. Very bizarre. Of course I'm not implying that she is immoral, but she's got to have a loose screw in their somewhere to pay close to $80 to gas up that beast every week. I predict drastic changes to the car industry in the next two years. I know, Americans love their big, inefficient cars, but they love their gourmet coffee too and can't afford both. Since coffee is physically addicting, gas will have to go.

It completely irks me that fuel cell technology is the proven answer but because of convenience, it probably won't be fully implemented for another 20 to 30 years. Hydrogen fuel much safer than gasoline, 100% clean, 100% renewable and almost no energy is lost in its consumption. But the car industry will first have to slog through all kinds of "hybrid" cars and exhaust those resources before emerging into the bright light of fuel cells because of the difficulty in creating a infrastructure to support hydrogen fueling stations. I wrote a handful of papers about this in college so have much to say about the subject but will spare you further puffing. Suffice it to say, although the current high gas prices are difficult to finance, they are a much needed impetus for kicking our gas-guzzling habits and forcing us to be environmentally responsible. This is one tree-hugger who has just come out of the closet. Tread carefully.


Jared said...

Sarah, I believe that first we will be allowed to drill in Alask, and off the shore in CA and in the Gulf of Mexico. I think these sources of oil will be tapped first, and then the next step will be a greater implementation of fuel efficient vehicles.

Stephanie said...

True, and the problem with hybrids is sort of economic. While they're great for the environment, they depreciate MUCH faster than regular cars and are harder to maintain. I'm all about public transportation though--if it wasn't such a pain here in the middle of the desert.

Adrienne said...

The Prius is one of the only cars that Consumer Reports gave "outstanding" ratings in both reliability and depreciation (or, well, lack there of.) The Prius owners I know (and MY GOD, there are a TON in my tiny midwestern town, I have no clue where they're coming from) have said that they while they're expensive to get fixed, they generally haven't had to do much except change the oil. Granted, they're not great for highway driving (they recharge based on reciprocal breaking, so they do better in stop and go traffic) but the Honda's Insight hybrid engine system seems to have that covered (uses the engine for acceleration, maintains speed off the electric from what I understand.)

Sorry, can you tell I'm totally in love with the Prius? and it's so gosh darn cute. And yeah, me and my 11 gallon tank totally feel your pain, Sarah. $30 FOR A TANK OF GAS? on my car? That used to gas me up for over a month.

Sarah said...

I'm not saying it's going to happen tomorrow, but that high prices are signs of hopeful change. The sooner the better, but I'm sure stupid Presidents will authorize all kinds of destructive, unproductive drilling before we've totally sapped/destroyed the oil resource and have to resort to the cleaner option of hybrid cars, and ultimatly, fuel cell powered cars. I HATE that we continue to invest in oil when we KNOW it's a dead end! But that's politics for you. Adrienne, thanks for driving a Prius!

Kaff said...

I am going to stick up for the truck driving crowd, since there aren't many fans out there. I too drive a truck because I love the way they look and of course I look cute in it! But opposed to your neighbor Sarah, I am the first one there if anything needs to be hauled around in the back. It is totally worth the extra bit in gas, but then again I only drive about 10 days out of the month :)

Anonymous said...

Fuel cells aint all that, unless of course you like burning fossil fuels. Hydrogen comes from natural gas, which is drilled just like oil, and usually from the same places. Or it comes from splitting water molecules, by using massive amounts of electricity which comes from fossil fuels. So no.

The most honest environmentalists look past the taboo of nuclear power and see the future. The dishonest ones just say "Chernobol! Halliburton! Spotted owls!" and the fossil fuel economy lumbers on.

Sarah said...

Good point about fossil fuels. But there are a ton of groups exploring promising methods of creating it that do not involve drilling. Here is an article about hydrogen production that talks about some of the obstacles we would need to overcome to make it worthwhile to produce:

It's not in the bag, but I'm hoping for progress.

Kaff, I can't imagine you without your trucks! Nothing but love, girl :)

Catherine said...

What are complaining about! Gas hasn't been 3.30 a tank since before Dad was born! Enjoy it!