Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Where's your stimulus check going?

I'm sure many of us have been watching gas prices creep up. I've seen them jump almost 10 cents per gallon in one afternoon. This Shell is located just a couple miles from our home and it's probably not the most expensive out there. I'm not sure how rising gas prices might be changing your behavior but we seem to be trying to drive less overall. The minivan, which was bought expressly for carpool use, often sits in the driveway since it cost 58 bucks every time we fill it up.

Incredibly, it wasn't even high gas prices that motivated me last fall to help work towards getting a bus service that would transport Dylan and her cohorts back and forth to Arbor every day, but a pleasant side effect will be getting rid of our behemoth of a vehicle. The most environmental thing about the bus is not only will it cart 34 kids back and forth--reducing at least 8 separate car trips--but it's fueled with used vegetable oil, our way of making environmental amends for sending our kid to a school 20 miles away... By the way, if anyone wants to buy a 1996 Nissan Quest with 160,000 miles, it will be available Thursday!

While many have been bemoaning the rise in gas prices, I found this article ,which seems kind of amusing given today's prices. So in 2000 we were freaking out over $1.54 gas? What I wonder is, what will today's article look like eight years from now? Will $4.00 gas seem cheap by comparison?

Much of the conversation about fuel prices in our country seems to be centered around two camps; the "good prices have gone up, we've gotten it too cheap and I can just ride my bike," group and the "this is America, dammit, not Europe, we live in the sticks and it's my god-given right to drive everywhere" gang. Yes, the United States is not Europe. We've been there--a couple of times--and European cities have some of the most excellent mass transit systems in the world. Another charming thing about Europe is that trains run from the major cities to many, if not all, of the smaller towns. My guess is that it wouldn't have been possible to build a town unless it was by a train--how would building materials get there? So in Europe there are alternatives to driving. I remember blogging two years ago about the price of gas in London, and at that time it was reaching $6.50 a gallon. Between that and the surcharge to drive into the city, you'd have to have a fair chunk of change to drive yourself to Picadilly for lunch.

But here's something else about Europe, even before the Euro started trashing the US Dollar. Everything is expensive. Transportation costs, labor costs, taxes, the whole apfel strudel, is reflected in the costs of food and goods. And that is what's happening here. Friends who run restaurants tell me their food prices are getting higher, even food's plastic packaging (created from petroleum) are driving up costs.

I personally don't believe that we'll ever go back to 2000 prices, it was artificially low then and once people are used to paying a price for something, it's becomes the new norm. As avid travelers, we understand that taking the trips we have taken, may move from being upper- middle class luxuries to the old fashioned kind of luxury that the millionaire class could only afford. Remember stories about the Grand Tour? I don't--it wasn't the sort of thing about which the crowd at the Night Owl in Columbia Falls tended to wax poetic, but hopping on planes gets harder to do when there are fewer of them around.

Speaking of driving, tomorrow we head out to Kahneeta, for a camping trip we bought at the Arbor Auction. I'm still struggling to understand the appeal of packing all one's crap into a car, only to drive a long time, unpack it, hang out for a day and then head home. Americans are so crazy!


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