THE OUTRAGEOUSLY LOW COST OF GAS

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I refuse to call myself an “Angeleno”; it’s one of the great asinine terms used to describe denizens of a particular city. Anyone who’s experienced the dissonance of living for any length of time in this shambolic conglomeration of 88 separate cities will tell you that there’s very little identification with greater Los Angeles on the part of its inhabitants.

Having said that, I do live here in Southern California and consequently I, along with around twenty million other residents of the state, am one of the first in the country to enjoy gas at near 4 bucks a gallon. Victoria’s cute little Yaris cost thirty-seven dollars to fill up today. It no longer matters what the size of your car may be: if it runs on petroleum, it won’t be cheap to fuel.

Gas prices are high and due to climb further.

I’m delighted.

I must preface the following by stating what should be obvious, if you’ve read this column before: I am not for making the economic situation for the poor and working classes any harder than it already is. High gas prices crunch down on the poorest among us.

The problem, however, is that those very same poor and working people all too often vote against their own economic interests or don’t vote at all, ceding the playing field to other, usually more economically advantaged groups whose interests are not commensurate with their own. One only has to drive on the choking freeways of LA to wonder why there isn’t a strong public transit system to support poorer people getting around this enormous place- a question that could be asked of many American cities.

The main answer is that the public haven’t demanded it. The only way to loosen the grip of oil companies on our politicians is to stop voting for them. But I don’t see the vast majority of the electorate becoming sufficiently politically educated to be able to make that choice by themselves.

But there is a way to transcend politics, thoughts of liberal and conservative.

It’s called gas at ten bucks a gallon.

I have no doubts that if that reality arose, we’d start to see all kinds of noise being made for electric cars, solar and wind investment and, best of all, the construction of new city public transit, not to mention the long overdue arrival of high-speed interstate rail travel, connecting every state on the continent.

People have always been prepared to be a little more careful with their spending when gas prices were high. But it has only ever made a dent around the edges. I want to see people not be able to drive to work. Yes, it seems cruel. But we’ve all had plenty of time to get up to speed on this issue. Plenty of time to vote for politicians who have shown, through actual deeds as opposed to rhetoric, a real interest in taking action on this issue (Ralph Nader, anyone?). We’ve also had ample opportunity to witness the bought politicians in Congress refuse to even have an intelligent conversation on the topic.

In the absence of all of that….

Hit us where it hurts. That’s right, oil companies. Rape and pillage our coffers for all you can get. It seems to be the only thing that gets most people’s attention. One of the reasons our politicians are able to be bought so easily is because they seem to view the current political and social landscape from  a perspective eerily similar to mine: that no matter how much cash they take from megarich corporations and no matter how much bending over they do for their corporate masters at the expense of the rest of us…

Most of us keep voting for them. Or don’t vote for the alternative. Because heads up: there are progressive candidates who run in elections, federal and local, across this country. But nobody cares.

Well, ten-buck gas might change that. So hike it up, Exxon. I’ll bust out the champagne.

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