American Gas

Protest the Lifestyle, Not the Prices

Oct 24, 2005

I have received from several well-meaning friends emails urging Americans to do this or that to protest high gas prices. I appreciate the good intentions, but would like to offer some global perspective on Americans’ “suffering”.

Go to http://www.prezzibenzina.it/ (“gas prices”) and look at the top of the right-hand column. “Media nazionale” means “national average”. Italians put commas (in prices) where Americans put periods, so the first price listed, for “ecological” gasoline, is 1.323 euros PER LITER.

There are 3.79 liters in a gallon.

So… (adding in the euros to dollars conversion at approximately $1.20 per euro), in Italy we are paying over $6 per gallon for gas.

A lot of that is taxes.

Yes, it hurts. Sometimes truckers protest by doing highway slowdowns etc.

BUT – the high price of fuel encourages people to use public transport, reducing traffic and pollution. Public transport systems are crowded and sometimes late, but generally they work pretty well, and more are being built all the time (with our tax money). Everyone recognizes that this is a better solution for most individuals, as well as society at large. Everyone would like to live in an Italy with less traffic and less pollution, and some of us are willing to sacrifice some personal comfort to achieve that. (Personally, I’ll take an hour in the train over an hour stuck in traffic any day.)

Americans need to learn to consume less. They consume far more of the world’s resources per head than any other country in the world. They live in bigger houses (= more energy costs for heating and cooling), drive bigger and far less fuel-efficient cars, and tend to own more “stuff” than even other wealthy populations in the world. They drive when they could walk, hopping in the car to go two blocks to the corner store. Many American cities are built so that there is no place to walk, and you take your life in your hands if you try. Then you have to pay money to go to a gym to stay in shape.

So my suggestion to Americans is: don’t protest today’s gas prices. Protest – and work to change – the gas-guzzling lifestyle that is killing you, and the rest of the world.

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