Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gas Prices Going Up Again!

Here we go again! I'll be paying more for gas (and so will you--so pay attention).

What annoys me is that I've done everything I can do to save fuel. I combine trips, I'm easy on the gas and brake pedals, I even try to take the inside lane on curves. And of course I'm driving a high-efficiency vehicle and keeping it tuned up. And yet the U.S. demand for gasoline doesn't diminish as the price rises.

Why? Because of all the clowns who are still jack-rabbiting away from the light (as I take off nice and easy) and racing to the next light (including weaving in and out), only to stop and wait for me because I know the timing on the lights, and then they zoom away again.

So what's happening is that there is no control on the upward pressure in the oil market; the sellers can demand whatever they want. There is a limit on the downward pressure; the consumers are not acting in any kind of concerted way to reduce the market. Too many of us complain about the prices as we're filling our tanks, but jack-rabbit away from the pump. We complain, but we still drive to the store 6 times a week, or go to Point A for one thing and later go to Point B (right next to Point A) for one other thing (can't wait, need it now).

So I'm thinking more and more that rationing is the only answer. I know no one likes the idea. I know that it will necessarily generate more government bureaucracy. But I also believe it is the only way we'll ever see a downward pressure on oil prices. Public education hasn't done it. CAFE* hasn't done it. Hey, fuel prices 10 times what they were before the Arab Oil Boycott of 1973-74 (and twice what they were only 3 years ago) haven't done it!

So here's my idea: Set up a rationing program similar to that used in World War II: Each vehicle is rated as to usage and allowed a certain amount of fuel per month. (In WWII, there were 3 categories--we might be able to be a little more diverse now, what with computers to assign and monitor.)

The vehicle owner gets a mag-stripe card (like a credit card), which serves as key to the gas pump, and may also be fixed to serve as a payment method; if that can be done with an ATM card or a credit card--and it can, why not with the ration card. When your allowance is gone, it's gone; see you next month.

In WWII, there was a window sticker, and your ration book had to match the sticker. Back then, all gas was pumped by attendants, and they had to check the coupons against the sticker. Very awkward in today's environment of self-serve and pay-at-the-pump. So maybe that level of control would just not be possible--just issue the card to the vehicle or to the owner and if s/he chooses to lend to someone else, s/he has less, and let that fact be the control--bottom line is that fuel is limited.

Now with my utility bills, when I go over certain limit points, my price-per-unit goes up. We could have a deal like that, too. If you go over your limit, you can get more, but at, say, triple the price. I don't know if that's a good idea, but it's possible.

So what do you think? Ready for another card that you can't leave home without?

*Corporate Average Fuel Economy: Federal requirements that automakers meet a certain average fuel economy for all cars sold. This has been largely negated by the popularity of SUVs, minivans, and trucks, which are not limited.

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