24 hours won’t fix this; pass it on
I received an unsolicited e-mail recently advocating all motorists in the country refrain from purchasing gas on a designated day for a 24-hour period. The author was convinced that the resulting reduction in demand would cripple the “conspiring” oil companies, thereby forcing them to lower the overly inflated price of gas. Naturally, the message concluded with the standard tag to forward the message along to 10 friends.
Now, admittedly, I do not consider myself to be your garden variety conspiracy theorist, but two things about the message immediately allowed acute crabbiness to settle in.
First, I knew the daunting task of trying to conjure up 10 friends was going to leave me depressed and, even if eventually successful, was going to require a great deal more time than I was willing to invest, even with the economic future of our country hanging in the balance.
Second, the sender’s obvious insinuation that, in order to consider myself a conscientious American citizen I had a moral obligation to spread the word, was extremely irritating. Although faced with the risk of being forever wracked with guilt, I somehow resisted the impulse to enlist in the movement. What ensued was a shocking occurrence that I am now forced to attribute to nothing less than divine intervention … I actually stopped to think.
With digit suspended in mid-reflex, I reasoned that simply not buying gas for 24 hours would, in reality, have minimal impact because we’d just go about our daily 12 mpg business and fill ‘er up the following morning. Therefore, to maximize the effect, it made sense that a better tactic would be for everyone to completely stop consuming petroleum for 24 hours. Following the logic, all shipping, air, rail, and automobile travel in this country would cease for a day, thereby massively reducing the demand for petroleum products, thus striking a massive populist blow directly into the sternum of Big Oil.
I was rolling big time now, so paying little heed to the overloaded cranial energy causing a building skull cramp, I couldn’t help but to continue to think it through and began pondering just who, in fact, would we be harming by this action?
I knew that after 9/11, U.S. commercial air travel ceased for about three days, and virtually overnight, all our commercial carriers fell so deeply into debt that most had to borrow money to maintain solvency, and some large carriers went permanently out of business. Consequently, I realized we would suffer an even more dramatic blow to the nation’s economy if the entire transportation industry (automobiles, airlines, railroads, trucking and shipping) ceased operations, even for just a 24-hour period.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the airline companies but the entire U.S. economy that hasn’t recovered to pre-9/11 levels. To put it into perspective, the tremendous economic losses suffered in the days following 9/11 far surpass the amount of funds that have thus far been appropriated to fund the war in Iraq.
Obviously, the likelihood of every private and commercial consumer hitting the sidewalks for 24 hours in a grand display of national solidarity is ridiculously slim. Consumer conservation, on the other hand, is an effective, admirable solution, but I can’t help but remain skeptical regarding our willingness to commit, on a national scale, to significantly reducing consumption while our comparative standard of living is so high. Even now, we Americans are still purchasing the latest SUVs while we stuff our ever larger homes with all the amenities we can afford.
In addition to instilling an ethic to conserve what resources we consume, I suggest we consider it imperative that we foster a commitment to become more self-reliant as a nation and reduce our increasing dependence on foreign resources. Supporting legislation to this end is a much more viable, long-term solution to our growing economic problems. To me, this is a more plausible solution than the short-sighted and down-right goofy “Day the Earth Stood Still” strategy that momentarily resided in my in box.
And, by the way, please forward this message along to 10 of your friends …
Patrick Farrell, 54, was born in Grass Valley, a great-grandson of a Cornish miner in the Empire Mine. He has worked for the U.S. Forest Service for over 30 years, and he and his wife have two children.
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