Gas prices are high. But something is amiss in the culture if this change is ranked as the nation’s greatest challenge. The price of fuel for cars tops a recent Associated Press poll of items that Americans are “very” or “extremely concerned” about. To be sure, low-wage workers who must drive and pay for their own gas are severely squeezed. Those folks should have a living wage that is indexed to fuel costs. But the rest of us need to reconsider the presence of elevated gas prices in the context of other world crises that should be top of mind.
The same poll shows much less concern among Americans about the European war, schools and places of worship that have become shooting galleries, the spread of fantasist misinformation, curbing human-induced climate warming, insurrectionists who are still seated as members of Congress, and the thousands across the nation who are forced to live in our streets.
Others around the world have every right to raise an eyebrow over our angst at feeding the glutinous beasts sitting in our driveways. Most of us own some version of the SUV, those “suburban assault vehicles” that clog our streets and spill over the lines of once spacious parking spots. In fact, most would require two parking spaces in Amsterdam, and some would be wide enough to completely span the width of a street in Rome. If the choice for some is not the standard SUV, it’s often the truck equivalent—buffed and spotless—and frequently carrying no more than one driver in an oversized seat.
At This Moment Whining About Gas Prices Makes us Look Small
Most of us love cars, but we are selling our children’s future to buy thirsty road behemoths. “Armadas,” “Sequoias” “Annihilators,” “King Ranch models,” “Land Rovers” and “Denalis,” are common nearly everywhere. I doubt if NASA could muster enough launch power to get a three ton Infinity QX80 into space. This car is big enough to occupy two counties at the same time. I suspect it comes with mooring lines and a ground-to-cab telephone, should anyone on the street need to talk to the driver.
Our addiction for oversized low mileage cars would make sense if we were running day camps. But most of us are just hauling ourselves around in a two tons of extra metal. The Nissan Armada gets a pathetic 15 miles to the gallon. Europe’s most popular car, the Volkswagen Golf, gets about 33 and weighs a ton and a half less.
EVs are still too expensive for most drivers. But with far less money it is possible to get new or used gas/hybrid cars with mileage from the mid-40s to much more.
We can complain about gas prices, but most of the rest of the west has figured out how to make cars more appropriate to this crowded planet. We should face the fact that our values are inverted. At this moment, whining about gas prices makes us look small.