Tuesday, May 15, 2007


By now you’ve read about it. In fact, you may well have read about it every year for the better part of a decade. “The Great Gas-Out”, wherein by avoiding purchasing fuel on a single day, you will at once thrash the high price of fuel and end the war for oil and hubris.
Unfortunately, this action is not based on an understanding of finance, economics, or the environment. Given that most versions of the propaganda surrounding this futile exercise simply enjoin the reader to buy before or after this single day, there will be no effect. If consumers purchase the same amount of goods during the same accounting cycle, they accomplish nothing more than an oddity in the books. At the end of the month, the fuel retailers have earned exactly the same amount of money. Moreover, the refiners and extraction companies, insulated by layers of supply chain, never see any difference.
In truth, the equation for spending less on gas is simple. Many would call it painfully simple: to save on fuel, save on fuel. By combining and otherwise minimizing trips, using public transportation when feasible, walking or cycling, favoring locally-produced goods, and driving a fuel-efficient vehicle, anyone can reduce the amount of money they spend on fuel. Moreover, if consumers would adopt these practices en masse, they would actually impact the price of fuel.
To again quote Tolstoy, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This token protest will accomplish nothing, because it is an empty effort that expects someone else to make the real changes. Changing the world starts with changing oneself.

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