Unleaded

Lately, I’ve been amused at the to-do over rising gas prices in this country. Myself, I just find it hard to complain when our European brethren are paying an average of over $5/gallon to fill up. But I suppose that’s typical. It’s likely that most Americans don’t view Europeans, or the rest of the world for that matter, as brethren. For some reason we tend to feel as if we deserve better. Put that way, I guess we really do have something to complain about.

As it turns out, much of the price of European gasoline is attributable to taxes placed on it. United States gasoline prices include tax, as well (around 50 cents/gallon is attributable to taxes, varying by state), just not as much. Much of this tax goes toward supporting the highway infrastructure which, in the case of the U.S., is the best in the world. So here we are paying less than half the price for the same gasoline while enjoying a transportation system unmatched in the global community. But let’s complain.

I think some twisted part of me hopes that gasoline prices continue to rise. In such an instance, maybe alternative fuels would become a more attractive option for car manufacturers and the traveling public alike. Fossil fuels are not the future; that much is clear. Perhaps rising gas prices will encourage the utilization of car-pooling and mass transit. People in this country have developed this notion that it’s their inalienable right to drive their very own 1-ton (and any in many cases 2-ton and beyond) vehicle for the sole purpose of delivering only themselves from the suburbs to the city for work. It’s the American way: wanting all the benefits without any of the effort. I admit, I am guilty of this myself. I get in my car every morning, drive straight to work, and return straight home afterward; no messing around with picking people up or catching a bus (though, if mass transit were an option for me I’d seriously consider it). But I really should complain, I suppose.

Is OPEC a monster? Absolutely. But until I see American citizens (myself included) and, to an extent, corporations putting forth at least minimal effort to mitigate the impact of rising gasoline prices, and at the same time combat them, you won’t see me feeling sorry for us. Until then, for me and the Jetta, it’ll be 87-octane, please. And you won’t hear me complaining.

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