I'm getting a little tired of listening to all those poor people out there whine about high gas prices. "Oh, the gas just costs too much. Can't OPEC just increase production?" I've heard this argument a lot lately, and OPEC has been snickering and saying, "Well, no. You've already used up your quota for the next three years". More troubling to me is that I've also heard rumblings that the general public is starting to come down on environmental legislation and the EPA, saying that all these silly restrictions surely can't be helping gas prices. We should just do away with that, and with silly smog devices like catalytic converters as they cut into our mileage. In how many ways must I shout "idiot" before you will understand? You need to understand that while America is the "land of opportunity" that does not mean that you are justly entitled to every damn thing you want.
OPEC squirts out roughly the same amount of oil each year. If you want to know why gas prices are so high just look out your window at your driveway. That's right, it's your fault. Remember back in the '80's when you owned a Honda Civic that got 35MPG? What are you driving now? If you're like most Americans, you're driving a SUV or a minivan whose mileage is in the mid teens. So, since you're consuming roughly twice the gas you used to, are you helping to share this among your fellow humans by driving half as much? Nope, thought not. Now I know that it's been thirty years since we panicked about running out of oil. And, from the look of it, we're probably not going to run out soon. But, does that mean that we need to burn through it like it's a race to the finish? We, as consumers, set the standards by which the auto industry complies. We're the ones who want all those 6,000 pound cars to haul our kids around safely, and the auto industry happily provides us with whatever we want. Why? Because here's a little secret: A SUV that costs $35,000 did not cost $15,000 more to make than a $20,000 car. Yup, the profit margin is much higher.
Here's another thought for those who bought an SUV to protect your kids: your kids are no safer wrapped in 6000 pounds of steel than they are when wrapped in 3000 pounds. In fact, they're probably worse off. For those of you who filled up on psych courses in college instead of taking any physics, I'll clue you in. A collision is an impact, and an impact has a huge amount of force that is relative to the deceleration of an object. That's why most cars and trucks today are designed with "crumple zones", or areas of the vehicle that are designed to crumple up in case of an accident. The idea is that the force of an impact will be used to scrunch up the car, rather than transfer it to your body. What's really happening is that as the car crumples, the occupants are decelerating at a much slower pace then the front of the car is, and this lessens the impact force to the occupant. In an SUV, the overall heavier design of the car means that it is more difficult to design a crumple zone that can slow down the occupant portion of the vehicle, and this increases the force on the bodies of the occupants. You could argue that a 6000 pound SUV will just tear right through a lighter car, thus preventing deceleration of the SUV in the first place, but you'd be wrong. Even a Honda Civic is a formidable object to slam into, especially when you're on the phone and balancing a latte in your lap. No, the best protection you can have for your children is an alert mind and keen eye when behind the wheel, and an agile car that can quickly maneuver out of potential accidents.
So, rather than gripe that gas costs too much and how it might require you to get off your lazy ass and walk once in a while, why not put your energy to constructive use? Oil and auto companies should be spending every last research dollar looking into new and improved sources of energy. Renewable sources so we don't run out again. Clean sources so we don't need to regulate emissions, and so all our cities don't end up looking like Los Angles. But, big business is not going to spend hard earned money on this unless it thinks people are actually interested in it. So, it's time for all you gas guzzlers out there to stand up and ask for cleaner cars. Ask that research be put into fuel cells, better battery technology, and other alternatives to oil. If there is strong mainstream consumer interest in such problems companies will solve them, and there's no better time than now. Now that gas prices are high, you need to stop bitching to the government about lessening taxes and EPA regulations and start asking hard questions about alternative fuel sources.