Peak Oil

Pimping the Pump Price

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 25, 2006

The irascible Sunday Times (UK) has run a cheekily British report on gas prices in America that average $3 USD per gallon (about 80 cents a litre USD or 91 cents a litre CDN), comparing it to the average UK price of $2.11 USD per litre ($2.40 CDN).

The article makes some hay out of President Bush's troubles at the hands of angry motorists, depicting him touring a hydrogen-powered vehicle plant. As Jim Kunstler wrote recently, Bush needs to get out of the fuel cell plant and into a train station.

The article then reports that the Democrats plan to enter this year's Congressional elections on a platform of getting oil prices back down.

Just how do they plan to do that? Stop China from buying so much oil? Stop [gasp] America from buying so much oil?

The price of oil is being exacerbated by market jitters over whether America/Israel will launch missile strikes against Iran, but the baseline price reflects the tight supply situation.

In short, the taps are wide open and the refineries are running full-bore, and they can't get the oil to market any faster.

Part of the reason Americans are whinging and carping over high gas prices is that their entire transportation infrastructure was built on the assumption of a never-ending supply of cheap, abundant gasoline.

As a result, public transit is rubbish, destinations are all spread far apart from each other, and personal vehicles are big and inefficient (the Ford fleet's average fuel economy is the same today as it was a century ago).

The only way Democrats or anyone else are going to provide relief from the coming era of chronically high gas prices is by investing heavily in a land use and transportation arrangement that reduces people's need to buy gas. That means compact, diverse, mixed cities and towns, transit oriented development, and one great mother of a load of retrofitting.

Of course, such common sense is entirely off the Democrats' radar.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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