Saturday, November 29, 2014

Actual Miles

Gasoline prices have collapsed, and so, as has happened on many an occasion, has OPEC.  The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has decided not to cut production, despite calls form its less affluent members to boost prices a bit to help out their own bottom lines.  The reasons for the cheap gasoline we have in the United States are many - less driving,  more efficiency, more American oil production, Millenials opting out of buying cars - but of course gas remains more expensive in European countries, where oil fields are few and far between, and so those countries have to import more of the stuff.  Generations of Europeans have built their human habitats around expensive gasoline, which accounts for the desirably compact living patterns and walkable towns and neighborhoods, their excellent public transit systems, and why so many medieval-era and Renaissance-era towns retain their Old World charm.  Cheap gasoline in the United States means that much of everything is spread out, producing the ugly sprawl that has come to typify the American man-made landscape.  If the federal government didn't subsidize gasoline like it does now, gas prices would be at least as high as in Britain or France.
Expensive gas in the Old Country means that most Europeans drive around in small cars, some of them with three-cylinder engines.  Some of those cars are really cute.  I'd buy one - preferably a Volkswagen up!, of course - if I could.  I just prefer small cars.  In fact, as the owner of a Volkswagen Golf, I would argue that, if you're fortunate enough to live in a country where gas is cheap, it makes even more sense to own a small car, because when you have a small car that gets great fuel economy and gas is $2.60 a gallon or the equivalent thereof at your local service station, you save even more money with a car that's easy on gas than you do when gas prices are higher. :-)
I only wish I hadn't had to start making more trips in my Golf when gas prices started going down. :-O     
I fear that low gas prices, though, are only going to continue to encourage more Americans to buy bigger cars, and more SUVs, and it's only going to make it even more difficult to expand public transit or return to traditional urban development.  Because, read this now and believe it later - these low gas prices won't last.  Where the price of oil per barrel is concerned, what comes down must go up again.   

No comments: