What To Do About the High Price of Gas


In a word: nothing. There is not a thing you can do about the high price of gas. Nope. Carbon companies are in business to maximize their price, margins and profits. If they don’t, their stockholders can sue them. They are not, after all, B Corps.

And please: if you see something like the following

Think about this for one minute

ignore it. It’s delusional, and Snopes debunked it years ago. Saying that we shouldn’t buy gas on this day matters to carbon companies as much as if you said we shouldn’t buy gas between the hours of 3 and 4 PM. They don’t notice, and wouldn’t care if they did. What you don’t buy between 3 and 4 you will buy before then or after then.

There are three problems with this suggestion, the least of which is that it won’t work.  The second problem is that it ignores the waste and pollution occasioned by cheap fuel. The third, and most important, problem is that, as activism goes, it is passive, not active. It makes us dependent on carbon companies to operate against their interests.

Let’s start with the good news: this protest won’t work. Not all misguided efforts benefit from being utterly ineffectual. If all we are doing is buying the same amount of gas a day earlier or later, it won’t raise a blip on the carbon companies’ weekly, much less annual, reports. Oil is becoming scarce. We learn in Econ 101 that as a commodity becomes scarce, it becomes more expensive. The most this protest will do is inconvenience protesters.

A friend in the auto industry declared that oil companies have no moral obligation to keep prices low, and he’s right. If anything, he said, their obligation to the environment would lead them to keep prices high, because high prices reduce demand and discourage waste.

Which suggests the next question and its answer: why would we want this protest to work anyway? We’ve had among the lowest gas prices in the industrialized world for the better part of a generation, and we have the lowest fuel economy of any auto-making country. The desire for lower gas prices is incompatible with environmental concerns. The only reason to want lower gas prices is that it costs us too much. That issue looms so large for some people that they can’t think clearly.

It’s like reading about the collapse of bee colonies around the world and worrying about whether the price of honey will rise.  We may understand some of the implications, but we’re missing the main point, which is close by.

Lowering the price of gas is not the only way to lower its cost to us. We are not so dependent and helpless as we think.

Whether we write letters, wave placards, sign online petitions, or send checks, we are sending one consistent message: we are unable to do anything about this ourselves, so we are asking the people in charge to help. But what if that’s not true, and not just about the price and cost of gas, but about other things as well?

Small changes can cause big change. If we stop focusing on price, and start focusing on cost, everything tilts. Suddenly we are in the position of taking action instead of asking for help with something we can do ourselves. We can begin to address environmental and other issues that we may be surprised to find are connected to the way we deal with our gas problem.

Here’s how to lower your costs. And I promise you – I guarantee you – that, unlike the April 15th placebo, this will work. It will be like magic: you will be able to lower your cost without the price of gas going down a penny. You can wait for someone else to lower the price for you, but they won’t do it. They don’t care. It’s not their job, anyway. It’s up to you, and it’s something you can do without asking permission.

Here are some alternative ways to spend April 15th. Go online to cars.com. Click “Research Cars”. Find a used car that gets at least 20% better gas mileage than your current car. You want it to be significantly better to make it worth your trouble. Do this for each and every car you own. It may take you an hour, but probably not. If you have a car that gets 22 MPG, combining your usual city/highway usage, and you replace it with a car that gets 20% better mileage (26.5 MPG, roughly) you will, in effect, lower your cost of gas from $3.75/gallon to $3.00/gallon. You don’t have to wait for some overpaid CEO in Gucci loafers (does Gucci still make loafers?) and a Rolex watch to give a damn.

Want to do more? If your used car has a lower insurance rate attached to it, you’re saving money on insurance. If you send e-mails to co-workers or friends and begin planning to carpool one or more days per week – and maybe have breakfast that day before work, or play pool and have a beer after work – then you have kept still MORE money out of the pockets of Big Carbon and Big Insurance and in your own, and you’ve had a chance to network or visit with friends. Without having to ask permission. It gets better.

Are you paying to go to a gym and ride a stationary bike? You know where I’m going with this. Get a real bike and ride it to work. Spend less on gas, insurance, and that gym membership. Also, save visits to the doctor about your cholesterol, your high blood pressure . . . That’s not all.

By doing it yourself, all manner of things begin to fall into place. Opportunities arise to spend more time with friends and co-workers, to get into shape, to make the difference you told yourself you wanted to make after New Year’s or during Lent or after your last doctor’s visit.

Doesn’t it make you wonder why we’ve allowed ourselves to become dependent on others to do what we can do, especially when they are unlikely to do it?

If we can, single-handedly, lower the cost of gas, the cost of owning a car, and diminish our impact on the environment, all without asking permission, without waiting for a response, without the price going down a penny, what else can we do?

Don’t like the commercialism of Christmas?

Don’t like stores selling you food sprayed with poison and dripping with trans fat?

Don’t like what the US government is doing with your taxes?

Worried about the mass extinction that is already under way?

Don’t like how banks can play fast and loose with the rules (which they have written, remember), and yet get bailed out?

Using the model above, we can do something significant about every one of those things, without waiting for someone else to fix it. If we just can’t abide that these problems persist, we can enlist friends and family members to join us in getting it done ourselves.

We must begin with the realization that being concerned or angry is not enough. Asking corporations and government to fix it has not, and will not, work. Have you noticed them do anything to turn back climate change? Even the ones who squeal about debt have had no trouble borrowing and deferring payment when their party has been in office. Hell, who knew you could buy a war – or two – on credit?

Action is no longer just one option. It has become an urgent necessity.

We need to begin by doing, rather than by asking someone else to do what is against their interest – a futile request if ever there was one. Once we’ve begun, we find that we can affect more than we thought possible on our own. But what do we do when our government suspends habeas corpus? Or when a corporation, in a Mordor-like frenzy for short-term profits, fouls the food, air and water needed to sustain life itself?

We don’t ask them to stop. We tell them they must stop. If they have bought politicians who have allowed them to write laws to say that they can do what they want, putting profits before people, as they are used to doing, we either run for office (people do, you know), or we come to understand that these are, truly, matters of life and death for us and our children. And then we do whatever is necessary.

We made dozens of advertisers flee Rush Limbaugh’s show.

We made the Komen Foundation reverse their decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

We made the US Justice Department and a grand jury investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Spring has just begun. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Timequake, “We have been sick for a long time, but we are better now, and there is work to do.”

This is a Do-It-Yourself Revolution. Outsourcing is so 20th century.

Making the Old Ways Obsolete

Limbaugh Is Just Batting Practice: State Legislatures Are Ground Zero For Women’s Rights


The least of women’s worries in 2012 is Rush Limbaugh calling them names.

Women are waking up and preparing to rise up all across the country, thanks to Mr. Limbaugh and to state legislatures passing laws restricting women’s rights at an unprecedented speed and level.

We thought all was well so long as Roe v. Wade was not overturned. We are like a woman leaning on her cane and not noticing that the ground has been eroded: as she goes over the cliff, she swears that her cane was fine just a moment ago. It’s not the cane that let her down. A woman can still choose to have an abortion – but good luck finding someone qualified to do it. Nationwide, 88% of counties have no abortion service provider. Fewer than half of ob-gyn residency programs offer training in the procedures required for a first trimester abortion.

Opponents of abortion have drawn the line against contraceptives and sex education – the very things most effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. You may have just begun to hear about this, but it is not new.

Eleven states have given doctors and pharmacists – who may not know the patient or her situation – veto power over women’s health care decisions, because state legislatures value the moral and religious considerations of doctors and pharmacists over those of every woman.  National and state legislatures want to give employers, who know nothing about medicine, the same veto power. Who gets it next – the local police? Your dry cleaner?

It’s hard to keep track of all the fronts of this war on women. Personhood bills give a fertilized egg the full rights of personhood from the moment of conception, effectively making hormonal contraception and abortion illegal. Transvaginal ultrasound bills require a doctor, against medical advice, if necessary, to insert an instrument into a woman’s vagina, with or without her consent – an action that in every other circumstance would be considered rape. A bill just passed by the Senate in Arizona protects doctors who withhold information from a pregnant woman if that information might be used to justify a decision to abort the pregnancy – even if the situation threatens the life of the woman or her fetus.

The weapons of misogyny are not restricted to Limbaugh and legislatures.

• In 2010 alone, 19,000 sexual assaults were perpetrated in the military – to which newscaster Liz Trotta said, “What did they expect?
• In 2012, women earn only 77% of what men earn for the same work.
• In 2011, only 12 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.
• In 2012, women comprise only 17% of the members of the US Congress and, on average, only 26% of state legislatures.

And on and on.

We are the daughters (and sons) of Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi. We must do as they did: we must speak out in public, we must march, and we must be prepared to fight to reclaim the rights that women inherited from their struggles.
There will be a march, a first step in reclaiming the inalienable rights of women, on April 28. It will take place in every state capital in the country. Join us, and tell your friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, and pro-woman men to join us, too.

Whom did they choose to mace? The Woman, of course.

Understand that there will be resistance. This is why it must be a movement of all of us, not just a few. Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony may have been the leading lights of their time, but they were backed up by thousands of others. If you think the authorities are not threatened by women when they assemble, look at the abuse riot police in Virginia recently gave to peaceful women who protested the transvaginal ultrasound bill there. Women have power; it’s been much too long since they unsheathed it.

Finally, consider this: resistance to women’s rights has always been a problem at the state level. When Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920, it gave women across the land the right to vote. Do you know how long it took other states to ratify?

Georgia (23.7), North (22.4) and South Carolina (9.4) and Louisiana (16) did not ratify it until the 1970’s. And Mississippi (14.9) did not ratify it until 1984. The numbers in parentheses are the percentages of women in the legislatures of those states in 2011.

The march is just the beginning. Women must be better represented in legislatures throughout the country. Run for office, or press other qualified women to do so. Run, or prepare to be run over, again and again.

We still have some choices in America. But the most fundamental one in 2012 is this: do we take over, or do we take cover? Our freedom and dignity depends on each other’s answer.

[See also my article, Will Women Rise Up in 2012?]

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