Saturday, May 19, 2007

Get on your bike

Gas, like any other limited good, goes to the highest bidder. Suppliers charge whatever the market (meaning the people willing to pay the highest prices) will pay. The oil companies will continue to raise their prices until people start to resist in the only real and meaningful way: they get out of their cars. Complaining about gas prices will do you no good. Writing politicians will not help at all. As long as you refuse to do without their product, as long as many of you won't even try, the oil companies will have you under their thumb. Want to free yourself from the oil companies and their prices? Then you have to free yourself from the car.

Getting out of your car accomplishes three things. First, it takes the pressure off the supplies of gas. If the supply of gas starts to outrun the demand, prices at the pump have to come down, as gas stations start competing for business. Second, it shifts the emphasis from facilities for cars to the alternatives, such as bike routes and public transit. Since these alternatives use less fuel, that further reduces the ability to oil companies to set their own prices. Finally, getting onto a bike, or public transit, or to any alternative to the car frees you. The real advantage the oil companies have over you lives in your own mind: the conviction that you have no alternative to driving your car and burning their gas. Once you free yourself of that belief, you have the power, because they have to sell gasoline, and you don't have to burn it.

So if you want freedom from high gas prices, relax that death grip on the pump handle and the steering wheel. You don't have to take your car to the auto graveyard; if everyone replaced 10km a week of driving with cycling, walking, and public transit, the gas stations in this city would sell seven hundred thousand fewer litres each week. That would make them take notice, and almost certainly have them rolling back their prices, in a big hurry.

1 comment:

Allison MacDuffee said...

Well put; I completely agree. Let's show the gas companies we can do without them.