Today the third announcement of a bankrupt airline closing its doors has spurred yet another outcry over soaring gas prices and our imminent economic demise. Prices in the Philadelphia area are currently hovering below the city's record high ($3.35/gal) but estimates say they will hit 4 dollars a gallon before the summer's through. And according to the Energy Information Administration, we are actually demanding more gasoline this year than we were last year, despite decreasing supply worldwide.
We do own a car at my house, mind you. We use it for big grocery shopping trips, heavy loads, and occasional gargantuan quantities of laundry, as well as short road trips. It is a 1989 Volvo Wagon with a bike rack and we fill the tank halfway about once a month. In my own finances, gas comprises barely a sliver of my money pie and so aside from the media, I almost forget about it. Or I certainly don't let it ruin my day. Now I know that the ripple effects of gasoline's price inflation have already sunk in, especially in the cost of necessities like Food. Which inevitably shall burden every single resident of this country and make us all a little conservative as consumers.
I discovered this little article in the Lancaster, PA local paper about gas prices and it had such a choice quote from an everyman that I felt I had to share it with you, out of journalistic duty:
John Beiler of New Holland reluctantly pulled his Ford Escort sedan into a Turkey Hill near the intersection of Routes 322 and 222 in Ephrata, where regular gas sold Wednesday for a "reasonable" $3.239 per gallon.
"It's disgusting," Beiler said. "We had to cut back and get rid of one of our cars. What next? Riding a bicycle?"
Now I don't mean to sound insensitive, but seriously!? This warranted quoting in a newspaper? I would like to blame the funding cuts in arts education for this man's severe lack of imagination when it comes to low-petroleum transportation alternatives. I suppose he assumes that riding a bicycle out of necessity means you're living in the nineteenth century and relying upon some "crazy contraption". And I'm all for good technology and innovation, but if we as a society cannot conceive of mechanical evolution in any other way than as a linear progression from caveman to iPhone then we are probably doomed. I know it is shocking but bicycles and cars have been known to exist in the very same space time. One of my greatest peeves of motorist conduct is when some frat boy yells from his car, "Nice bicycle!" in that soggy mocking voice as though you were walking around in a loin cloth and carrying a spear by virtue of pedaling.
What's next? Of course a bicycle, Mr. John Beiler. If there's one thing the 5th Anniversary of the War in Iraq should remind us of, it is that gas is something we've paid dearly for the privilege to enjoy and it should be used accordingly. That is efficiently. And only as necessary, which means for goodness sake, get rid of your extraneous four wheel drive monstrosity and upgrade to a city bike. Even if you live all the way out in Lancaster. Roads weren't built for cars, you know. There is Life Beyond the Automobile.
So if rising gas prices is a symptom of an American economic apocalypse, and if this apocalypse gets us to cut down the carbon footprint of air-travel, join a carpool and heaven forbid, strap a helmet on and ride a bicycle, then I say Bring It On.