It’s the Fourth of July tomorrow, and as usual my *cough*patriotism*cough* manifests itself this week in the form of a critical, cynical look at problems this nation faces and why we are where we are as a nation. Americans like to spew the “greatest country on Earth” bit, but even the most patriotic of us will agree that we’ve got some serious issues, and let’s face it, one of the biggest ones is the rising price of gasoline. However, it’s a problem the rest of the world has faced for some time. The price of gas being high is nothing new to most developed nations. The fact is, we did not have the foresight in this nation to see the problem coming, and screwed ourselves. Here’s three simple reasons we’ve got no reason to bitch and moan about the price of gas.
1. How did we not realize a long time ago that living close to work makes sense?
Europeans have known for years that it’s a lot smarter to live close to work. It’s convenient, it saves gas, and you can even take the bike or walk to work when the weather is nice. Somewhere along the line, though, Americans got the notion in their heads that it’s far nicer to live fifty or sixty miles from where you work, in a suburb where you can raise Little Johnny and Judy with two cars in the garage, a dog, and a fenced-in backyard. We decided it’s far better to build cities that stretch for miles across the untamed wilderness, rather than building cities which stretch story upon story into the sky, with buildings, businesses, and homes closer together. Sprawling cities like Dallas, where three-quarters of the workforce live in some distant suburb, are dumb as fuck. Don’t live in them.
2. Americans don’t have some god-given right to drive their own car, believe it or not.
We decided a long time ago we’d almost always rather own our own vehicle than utilize any kind of public transit – after all, the automobile was a symbol of freedom of movement for so many Americans, right? In the 20th Century it even became a symbol of freedom from one’s parents for young adults across America.
Now we realize, as our gas prices inch toward what the rest of the world has paid for years, the wisdom of building strong public transit, of building our cities with less sprawl, and of living closer to where one earns one’s paycheck. Why didn’t we realize it twenty years ago, looking at what the rest of the world was already doing? Why were we not building solid train and bus lines like Europe?
Americans like to think it’s because public transit doesn’t work in America’s vast rural areas, which is, of course, nonsense. All it requires is a centrally-located hub (the nearest city of any size) which has bus or train lines running on regular schedules to the smaller rural communities surrounding it. Now, what is true is that it doesn’t work in the rural United States… because rural Americans don’t want to use it. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe it’s somehow an American right to drive our own vehicle instead. This is bullshit, and it was bullshit twenty or fifty years ago when we should have been investing in public transit and building cities more practically. Public transportation is the environmentally responsible, cheaper, wiser option for getting where we need to go.
3. The biggest reason we have nothing to bitch about in America is real simple: everyone else still pays more for a gallon of gas.
This one’s a no-brainer, folks. Let’s just take a glance at this list:
United States of America – $4.10/gallon
Germany – $9.16/gallon
Brazil – $6.02/gallon
Turkey – $10.14/gallon
These are just a few examples from different areas of the world. Now, certainly we can look at countries like Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates where gasoline sells for less than $1/gallon, but I don’t think that’s much of a comparison. It’s far more telling to look at other developed, Western nations like those in the European Union, where people usually pay in excess of $8/gallon.
If they can deal with the higher price of gasoline they are forced to pay, what’s the big deal here? Other than lack of foresight, planning, or practical solutions like public transportation and living closer to work and school, of course. Next time you catch yourself bitching about having to pay too much for gas, consider that United States citizens are the number one consumers of gasoline in the world, and ask yourself, does gas cost too much, or are we just far too dependent and wasteful of this limited, nonrenewable resource?