Under the Sun
Cheap gasoline a relic of days long gone by
IN yet another in the repetitive stream of "pain at the pump" sound bites, a man on a news broadcast whined piteously about the ever-increasing cost of filling the thirsty tank of the behemoth SUV he pilots solo from suburban Virginia home to urban office.
The poor thing has to go to work and to get to work he has to drive and in order to drive, he has to have gasoline. He has no choice, he said, adjusting the designer shades masking his eyes.
Of course, he does have choices. He could carpool. He could take public transportation. He could trade in the big, fat brute of a car for one that sips instead of gulps gasoline.
But, no. He says he'll just hang on until gas prices come down again.
He's got a long wait.
The guy, like many Americans, is in denial about our predicament if the belief is that high prices are only temporary, a condition brought on by the upcoming summertime driving season, compounded by trailing output from hurricane-damaged refineries and worldwide demand.
Here in Hawaii, drivers are fooling themselves if they think abolishing the gas cap will drop the tab for a tankful.
Maybe in the short run, fuel will be slightly cheaper as oil companies ease up to bolster their claims that the cap was messing up the local market and that they weren't gouging us all those years when profits from the islands made up a disproportionate percentage of their total gains.
Even though the revised law will require oil companies to provide information about their pricing -- and forgive me for suggesting that books can be cooked -- it is doubtful state leaders will muster the political backbone to reinstate the unpopular cap that many misunderstood
I don't hold out much hope for the beltway bunch to come up with solutions since that gang is not geared for long-term strategies, but for fast, fake fixes they can clip to campaign credentials before November. Instead of doing something good, Congress and President Bush prefer to do something that only looks good.
Senate Republicans were dangling a $100 rebate to offset high gas prices, but many consumers weren't buying it. Some found the idea insulting. Others sneered that $100 is a drop in the bucket when compared not only to gasoline costs but to price increases all goods will soon see -- from plate lunches and sneakers to lipstick and books.
Better the $100 go to subsidize research and development of alternative fuels and the infrastructure needed to distribute them, and not the oil industry, which hasn't been eager to change direction. Better the $100 go to companies and businesses that produce schools and other buildings that use less energy. Better the $100 go to taxpayers who ride buses and subways, pedal bicycles or carpool.
In any case, the cash-back offer, rejected yesterday as ridiculous, was tied to a plan to open the Arctic wildlife refuge to drilling, set aside environmental protections and create a new accounting procedure that could force oil companies to pay more taxes. As expected, the oil companies howled about the tax part and, as expected, Senate leaders knuckled under, withdrawing the proposal.
Our energy problem has much to do with ourselves. We don't want to do anything differently. We want to drive big cars at small car prices, cool our homes to 65 degrees and plug in every gadget and appliance we can buy, but not build more power plants. We don't want to conserve by walking the two blocks to the grocery store.
Like the Virginia commuter, we can wait and hope for better times. But make no mistake. The days of a $15 fill-up will be consigned to nostalgic recollections, like paying a nickel for a Hershey bar or whole dried squid.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org