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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 26, 2006

Open Letter to Gas-Whiners

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:14 pm

We all hate paying over $3 per gallon for gasoline. It seems to

Your Editor, however, that some of us have far better reasons for

complaining than others. Indeed, most of us should be pointing

our fingers at ourselves, and at most of Middle- and Upper-Class

America (and the residents of similarly affluent nations), before we

complain about petroleum companies that are profiting too much

or politicians who are doing too little. (See, e.g., Washington Post,

Bush Calls For Probe Of Rising Gas Prices,” April 26, 2006)


gasNozzleG When it comes to products that we all use and need, the marketplace makes all of us very interdependent. Excessive demand is bound to create painfully high prices for both sinners and saints. Energy Gluttons cause pain for everyone in the marketplace — for themselves and for the Energy Thrifty, who cannot escape the marketplace results of their wastrel countrymen (and fellow inhabitants of Earth). In my not-particularly-humble opinion, the following folk are among the people who should not be complaining very loudly about high gasoline prices:



– anyone who purchased or leased an automobile for
personal or family use in the past decade that achieves

less than 30 mpg on the highway (exception: the truly
poor who bought as gas-efficient a used car as possible)
– anyone who purchased a home in the past decade

that has more than 500 square feet per resident (that

number is probably too high, but I’m trying to be lenient)

afterthought (April 29, 2006): As if it needs to
be said, this list should include:
– anyone who travels by private jet

55 limit n

– anyone who has not made serious, good faith efforts to
engage in car-pooling for getting to work or schlepping the
kids to and from school or social activities

– anyone who has not slowed down to 55 mph, in order to
improve gas mileage up to 15% (see our post gas pain? and
the FTC Consumer Alert How to Improve Gas Mileage, May

– anyone who has enough disposable income to buy one or
more $5 cups of coffee daily, or who only drinks water pur-
chased in small bottles.

On the topic of high gasoline prices, the people in the first two categories

above should consider offering apologies rather than complaints. It’s their

American dream that is fueling our energy nightmare. [Yes, of course, there

are exceptions, and people who do not have meaningful choices, due to their

particular situations. See my customary implied disclaimers.]




My own neighborhood is high-density urban, with a broad spectrum of

social and financial strata intermingled. Residents go from the down-

and-out living in Single Occupancy Rooms at the YWCA and YMCA (who

often don’t have vehicles), to college kids living in small apartments, but

driving $50,000 cars (many of which are gas-guzzlers); to the working poor

with rusty old cars living in tiny apartment units; to professional families and

ancient widows living in large, poorly-insultated, pre-Civil War houses, and

driving any thing from Priuses, and Mini-Coopers, to large SUVs and full-

sized, granny-drivin’ GM cars.


Frankly, some of my neighbors have not earned the right to complain very

loudly about high energy prices. We have, at least, greatly reduced gasoline

consumption by choosing to live in town, rather in sprawling suburban locations.


Choices count; choices add up.


ecological footprint quiz



As I did last year, I urge readers to take the eye-opening Earthday Footprint Quiz,. which was developed by Redefining Here’s how it introduces itself:

Ever wondered how much “nature” your lifestyle requires?

You’re about to find out.

This Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates how much productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard. After answering 15 easy questions you’ll be able to compare your Ecological Footprint to what other people use and to what is available on this planet.




There’s even a test for school-aged children, available at the BobbieBigFoot website. There are lesson plans for teachers, including one with the important message: We are All Responsible.

Am I trying to make Americans — like you! and sometimes me! — feel guilty about their energy choices? Yep. The fact that “everybody does it,” shouldn’t make irresponsible lifestyle choices acceptable. The fact that we do some recycling should not get our consciences off the hook. And, it shouldn’t take the current voter revolt to get “conservative” politicians like local U.S. Representative John Sweeney (R-Clifton Park, NY) to support CAFE mileage standards for the very first time. [see this story]

update (Earth Day 2008): Many of the above links relating to your ecological footprint are no longer working. For a related exercise, I suggest checking out your Carbon Footprint, which is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide. Earth Day (or any day) is a good time to calculate your carbon footprint. At Carbon you can also calculate the (incredibly large amount of ) CO2 you’ll use by flying to a destination.




rising gas prices–

an attendant changing numbers

in a pouring rain


Michael Dylan Welch from Modern Haiku (Winter-Spring 2005)


In Ecological Footprint of Nations2005 Update, you can learn a lot about how American consumption compares to other nations, and is a major contributor to the ongoing, unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources. For example:

– On a global level, humanity is exceeding its ecological limits by 39%. That means that at present rates of consumption,” we would need 1.39 Earths to insure that future generations are at least as well off” as the average inhabitant of Earth is now.

– However, if everyone on the planet consumed as much as North Americans, we would need 8 Earths to insure that future generations are at least as well off as we are now.

– That’s because, North America has an Ecological Footprint per capita that is 5.93 times greater than the amount of biocapacity available per person on a sustainable basis globally.

gasNozzleF – More than 90% of America’s immense Ecological Footprint comes from its use of fossil energy. “As was noted in the 2004 Footprint of Nations report, wealthier nations tend to run negative ecological balances, largelybecause of the high degree of correlation between affluence (expenditures) and fossil fuel consumption.”

Thanks to our large cars and homes, only two nations — the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait — have per capita “ecological deficits” (negative ecological balances) greater than that of the United States. The next closest “deficit” nations are Belgium/Luxembourg, whose ecological deficit is 30% smaller than ours per capita, and Netherlands, which has an ecological deficit 37% smaller than ours.


on the freeway–
the skywriting drifts

Michael Dylan Welch from Open Window -click here for orig. photo & poem

Belgium and the Netherlands may seem like energy martyrs to the average American, but I think you’d agree that their standard of living is not too shabby. Compared to the rest of the world, our consumption choices — what we consider to be our birthright and the indices of a “successful” life — are simply irresponsible. Who is responsible for the painfully high cost of energy? His/her reflection is coming back at you from the rearview mirror of your gas-guzzler and the steamy mirror in your home’s third bathroom.

p.s. Why does this newscast annoy me? When our local Fox23News tv affiliate did a

spot on April 24, 2006, called “Finding more fuel efficient vehicles,” it went to

Langan Motor Car, in Schenectady. We got to hear how “drivers are trying to

adapt” to high gas prices, with Langan’s Assistant Sales Manager, Jeff Keene,

saying, “We’re seeing a lot of people wanting to get out of SUV’s.�” Keene added:

“They come in specifically looking for the mileage but also for the all wheel drive.”

Langan Motor Car sells Audis (and Porsches). Why aren’t I getting all misty-

eyed for the poor consumer?

“MeNeFrego” Italian Hand Gestures – American Energy Consumer to the World?

update (April 29, 2006): npr‘s Morning Edition tells us that “Gas Prices Drive Some to Reconsider Habits,” April 28, 2006. This morning (April 30), the npr Saturday Weekend Edition had a piece you can hear here, that basically says people are still complaining, Lattes in hand. On April 27, npr Q&A on gasoline prices, that does a good job of explaining the why’s and how’s of oil and gasoline pricing, and that included the following:

Is there any evidence that people are starting to change their habits in response to higher prices?

When you ask drivers at the gas station, “Are you trying to conserve?,” they invariably say they are. But weekly data from the Energy Department show that we’re still using more gasoline than we were a year ago. It’s likely that the pace of growth has slowed because of the high price.

gas pump g It also appears that people shopping for new cars are paying more attention to fuel economy than they were a few years ago. Buyers of hybrid and fuel-efficient diesel cars are already eligible for tax breaks, and this week President Bush called on Congress to expand those.

update (May 4, 2006): “ftc unveils its high-test oil and gas info website” (The Federal Trade Commission announced its new Oil and Gas Industry Initiatives website today.)

morning bird song —
my paddle slips
into its reflection

beach parking lot —
where the car door opened
a small pile of sand

toll booth lit for Christmas —

from my hand to hers

warm change

Michael Dylan Welch from The Haiku Anthology (3rd. Ed, edited by Cor van den Heuvel) “morning bird” – Modern Haiku XXIV: 1
“toll booth” — Frogpond XVIII: 4
“beach parking lot” – Frogpond XXI: 2


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