Op-Ed: Gas-Guzzling Americans

By Robert Ward

Roswell, GA - Americans constantly looking for the place to lay blame for our exorbitant gas prices and shortages can stop searching for a scapegoat and simply take a look in the mirror. The high prices per gallon are not so much the result of hotbed issues in Iran, Iraq and Nigeria, or hurricanes, or OPEC demands, or American gas-supplier price fixing, or refinery output machinations, or government ineptitude, or worldwide consumption requirements, or continental pipeline shortfalls, or disruptive activities in shaky oil-producing countries, or supertanker groundings, or, or, or… Actually, Americans themselves are to blame.

Americans, and this of course is no big secret, are the biggest gas-guzzling gluttons on earth. Just take a gander at the gigantic vehicles we've been purchasing these past few years, such as the macho trucks and SUVs that can suck a 50-gallon barrel dry in days. Visit Europe and you'll be struck by how economically sophisticated their motor vehicles are. Okay, their cars are small. But for Europeans, their gas prices are extremely high. And that goes to show you: Europeans adapted. Americans haven't. At least not yet. (You'll see.)

Saving you from hours of economic mumbo-jumbo, let's just cut to the chase: Our world turns according to supply and demand. The tragic fact here, regarding gasoline and barrel prices, is that the more we guzzle, the more we'll pay for it in the end. A lot of us need to stop our "Come on OPEC, open up the valves!" whining and start perusing the papers for smaller cars.

We should be thinking of ways to extend and softly ration the oil we receive from the international community as well as the paltry amount we drill right here. Oh my, the "R" word. Maybe not hardcore rationing, but at least voluntarily pinching fuel through the use of more thrifty vehicles. (Hey, manufacturers, how long are you going to hit the Snooze button?)

We certainly shouldn't be manufacturing super-large wasters of gasoline at the worst imaginable time when oil is over $70 per barrel. Just wait until we see what the future brings us in the way of lackluster oil supply and exorbitant pricing. The glory days of unlimited gas-wasting are closing and we'll be adapting a scrimp-and-save fuel mentality here in America. By choosing the right vehicles -- such as smaller-engined cars and even hybrids, and developing hydrogen-fuel technology -- we can delay the harsh days when we must drastically (and mandatorily) cut back on fuel use.

Maybe it's time for the federal government to step in and legislatively limit the manufacture of certain types of vehicles, such as the ever-growing monster pickup and SUV gas-hogs. Also, federal, state, and local government agencies could create gasoline-saving laws or "enticements" whereby drivers would be rewarded for purchasing particular types of vehicles that are doing their mighty share in preserving America's fuel supply. Just one example is some states' new laws that permit hybrid-vehicle owners to use the quicker-moving car-pool commuter lane during rush hours. A nice perk for those who have made the right choice when it comes to cutting back on gasoline usage and harmful-emission output.

The sad aspect is, there are plenty of Americans who will drive monster vehicles and who could care less about our fuel reserves, our children-filled neighborhood streets, our already unsafe, harried and hectic highways, our gridlocked commutes, and our glutted environment. The urge to be "looked up at" and even feared on the roadway is just too strong for innumerable Americans with low self-esteem. What's truly abysmal is that because of the monster-vehicle drivers, the rest of us have to pay the most painful supreme and regular prices.