Monday, August 22, 2005

It hurts when you do that? Well, then don't do that...

If there's one thing that irritates me to no end, it's idle complaining. In crasser terms, it's people that bitch all the time but never do anything to fix the issue about which they're bitching.

Most recently, it has been the issue of gas prices.

"Gas prices are so high! Can you believe how high the gas prices are? They're just so high!'

Ok ok...we get it. Yes, gas prices are high, and yes it sucks. But if it bothers you that much, do something about it.

As far as I'm concerned, gas prices really aren't that bad...yet. When I got to D.C., Gas was about $2.10 a gallon, meaning it cost me $42 to get my behemoth of a gas tank from empty to full. Now, gas is about $2.50 a gallon, so it costs me about $50 to go from empty to full. A difference of $8.

Now, since I only need to fill up once every 10-14 days or so, that's really only 57-80 cents a day more than I was paying before. And to get back to my economic tendencies, the 'opportunity cost' that I would incur by driving less is more than the 80 cents a day I'm paying to continue to drive. In other words, walking/biking to work or to the store is not worth saving 80 cents. Or, I guess you could say I'm paying a tax of 80 cents a day to not have to walk/bike. And I'm fine with that. Thus, I'm not bitching about gas prices. Of course, I'd love it if gas went back to a dollar a gallon, but it's not, and the fact that it isn't doesn't mean I'm going to starve.

Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the rising price of oil and gas, we haven't altered our driving habits. In fact, demand for gas has actually gone UP. And again, simple economics tells us that as demand rises and supply falls (or remains the same), price will also rise.

So how can we affect the price of gas? Well, by affecting either supply or demand. And since we've not yet discovered how to efficiently increase the supply of oil (i.e. pull it out of thin air), it looks like we're going to have to work with the demand side of things.

How do we affect demand, you ask? Well, there are several ways, you asker of silly questions. But one of them is NOT to complain about the prices while simultaneously continuing to buy gas at the current prices. We could start by preventing China and India from industrializing. I mean, there's two and a half billion people right there driving the demand for oil through the roof. Get them to cut it out, and demand will plummet. But that doesn't look too likely, as they're just now figuring out that driving is way easier than riding a bike.

In the world of politics, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Simply complaining about something is not squeaky enough, because at the end of the day, the 'wheel' still works. In matters like this, the wheel has to stop turning or fall off completely.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if this situation is as desperate as some make it out to be, they should take it to the streets, literally (to use yet another cliche). If you want the price of gas to come down, simply stop buying it when it goes above a certain price. Drive less, walk more, buy a hybrid car. Organize boycotts at local gas stations, and encourage others to do the same. Write your senators and representatives demanding alternatives to fossil fuel. Nuke China and India. Do anything but sit on your ass and complain.

An economics professor of mine once said something pretty profound, at least by economic standards. He said that 'anything is possible, it's just a matter of cost. If you see something as impossible, that just means the cost is too great for you.'

So for anyone who says they 'can't' drive less, and continues to complain about high gas prices — they're lying. They CAN drive less, they just choose not to — or, the cost of NOT driving is greater than the cost of gas. We can't have our cake and eat it too. If you're going to bitch about gas prices, don't turn around and buy it. It's just irritating.


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