10 Things you can like about rising gas prices
As Amanda Ripley points out in her series of essays for Time Magazine, “10 Things You Can Like About $4 Gas” (July 4, 2008), many individuals are finding options where there seemed to be none.
“They're ready to change — and waiting for their infrastructure to catch up,” writes Ripley. “They are driving to commuter-rail lines only to find there are no parking spots left. They are running fewer errands and dumping their SUVs. Public-transit use is at a 50-year high. Gas purchases are down 2 percent to 3 percent. And all those changes bring secondary, hard-earned benefits.”
Taking the lead from Ripley’s essays, here’s why Canadians should be embracing the higher price of gas.
For starters, increased fuel prices translate into increased shipping costs. As Ripley points out, the cost of shipping a container from Shanghai to New Jersey has tripled since 2000. The same argument can be made for shipping produce from California and Florida to Canadian supermarkets. Good things not only grow in Ontario, but as the price of gas continues to rise, they also will be cheaper, making locally grown produce and locally manufactured goods much more attractive.
Since World War II, the widespread access to the private automobile has determined the design and function of our cities. Today’s urban sprawl is a direct result of cheap gas. As the cost of commuting to work soars, we will be forced to rethink our relationship with the urban environment and create communities where we can work, live and play.
Ripley reports that when Florida’s Brevard Community College went to a four-day session in the summer of 2007, they saved $ 268,000 in energy costs alone. As an added bonus, “Over the year, sick leave fell 50 percent, and turnover among the 1,500-person staff dropped 44 percent,” writes Ripley. Parents with small children can also factor in reduced childcare costs and more time with their families.
In Canada, transportation accounts for 27 percent of our total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cutting fuel consumption translates directly into a reduction in GHG emissions and less smog.
Despite all the layoffs and plant closures within the North American auto industry, people still need to buy vehicles of some kind. Versatility is the key. To boost flagging truck sales, GM and Ford should forget about the gas rebates and put an e-bike or scooter in the back of every pick-up.
Drivers are also getting a lot smarter about how they drive. Last year, U.S. courier giant UPS encouraged its drivers to plan their routes to avoid left turns. In one year the company saved approximately three million gallons of gas and $ 10 million in fuel costs.
Despite the dramatic rise in cancer deaths, traffic accidents are still the number one killer of young people, aged 5 to 34. Thanks to higher gas prices, people are driving less and slowing down to conserve fuel, saving an estimated 1,000 precious young lives every month in the U.S. alone. In Canada, the equivalent would be approximately a hundred lives or more.
Commuters pay higher car insurance rates than occasional drivers. Check with your insurance company to see how much you can save by parking your car and taking public transit to work. Factor in gas savings, parking and car maintenance, and public transit becomes a much more attractive option.
Ridley reports that U.S. road travel dropped 2.1 percent in the first four months of 2008. The next time you’re backed up in traffic, imagine if 2 out of every 100 cars suddenly disappeared. Now imagine how dramatic that decrease could be if 2.1 percent of the money spent to maintain our overcrowded highways was invested in public transit instead.
Perhaps the best argument for higher gas prices is that it may be a substantial tool in the fight against obesity, as people depend more on walking and cycling, As Ridley reports, Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, estimates that a one dollar a gallon hike in gas prices may ultimately translate into a 10 percent cut in obesity.
To read Amanda Ripley’s series of essays, visit www.time.com.
Check out the Office of Energy Efficiency’s FleetSmart program at fleetsmart.nrcan.gc.ca.