Friday, April 28, 2006


Say It With Me: Supply and Demand

Charles Krauthammer makes the point bluntly, but he's probably right about the reasons behind the recent escalation of gas prices.The high price at the pump is not a matter of profiteering, but of supply and demand.

What I find remarkable is that, in the face of prices that have tripled in only six years (because, remember, you could buy gasoline for less than a dollar as recently as 2000), people have responded by buying bigger cars and enduring longer commutes in them. Is there no level of expenditure that will wean Americans from their desire for a big yard in an exurb and a vehicle that can hold the family, its friends, and all of its possessions? Or, to put it in economic terms, is there no price at which demand will abate?

Today even Bush is saying he wants to improve fuel economy, which should tell you how scared politicians are of the very definite correlation between high gas prices and low approval ratings. Exxon and Chevron should look out; when a few more cities see the price for regular unleaded top $3.00, an excess profits tax is going to get very popular very fast! (Michael Kinsley makes the case that this would be a good thing.)

But there are simpler ways to make a dent in our oil problem. More telecommuting would help. So would encouraging people to plan their car trips better, something you'd think would happen anyway with prices this high. For instance, I won't leave the house in my car to go on one errand. By the time I'm willing to go, in fact, my trip is planned like a war (and not the one in Iraq). We engage our lunch here, pick up our laundry detergent and toothpaste there, stop for a new pair of jeans there, and return home, having saved countless miles, hours--and gallons. When will it become fashionable to brag about this? Because that's what America will need to get serious about saving ourselves from oil dependence--something to brag about. It's what motivates us: the constant quest to top one another in small, almost meaningless ways.

So let's start here. What do you do to reduce your gas consumption?


McKenzie said...

I eat less mexican food to decrease my gas production if that helps at all.

Richard said...

While I'm sure Michele and your coworkers appreciate that, it would be better if you walked to the mexican restaurant, ate there, and used the walk back as an opportunity to, ahem, release the gas inoffensively.

Victoria said...

I pay a small fortune to live in a crapass campus apartment in Malibu so I'm on campus. And I'm going to London in less than a month where I won't be driving at all.