Who says expensive gas is bad?

I’d like to make it clear that I DO hug trees, but only for money.

I’m an arborist, which means I climb all over maples, poplars and oaks, but do it surrounded by gas-powered chainsaws, leaf blowers and an old Dodge dump-truck whose tank costs around $90 to top off.

Despite the immense fuel costs of keeping the trees of Philadelphia (not to mention this campus) looking decent, I sing the praises of gas prices that soar over $3 a gallon.

Yes, steep prices for petrol are a good thing, despite the fact that I’ll probably have to take out another student loan to keep my Dodge well-fed.

The reason is this: all of those SUV-loving folks who shrugged off the vociferous sermons of hippies and tree-huggers (the unpaid kind, of course) are now thinking twice. And I think that’s good. At the very least, the stubborn folks who bought Hummers, insisting they were “safer” or that their off-road lifestyles demanded such a vehicle, are undoubtedly examining their choices.

And any time we become contemplative about our consumption, about why we buy what we buy, I’m pretty sure an angel gets its wings-or at least a door prize.

Seriously. Take, for example, the state of Pennsylvania. According to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, the state runs a fleet of vehicles (many of which are gas-guzzling SUVs) of around 38,000. All was fine and well until gas prices rocketed and the state budget went haywire. The solution? The politicians became contemplative, dumped 788 of their vehicles, including 228 SUVs, and decided to add 30 alternative-fuel cars before the end of the year. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Similarly, the city of Philadelphia’s current fuel budget sits at $7.9 million a year. But despite the big numbers, rising fuel costs could have the city around $5 million shy of breaking even. What will our government do? Flex, is the obvious answer. They have no other choice.

Exorbitant fuel prices are the norm in many other countries. England lives with almost $5.80 a gallon, Norway over $6, and in Holland expect to pay a whopping $6.50 for a gallon of gas. These nations have learned not only to flex around high petrol prices, but to actively seek efficient alternatives. Small cars, public transportation, more bikes–novel concepts to many mid-Westerners, but reality for much of the world.

America’s appetite for fuel will never be satiated until gas becomes completely unavailable or so expensive that we are forced to change our lifestyles. And if the same consumers that once demanded monster-truck commuter vehicles change their tune and demand fuel efficiency, the market will surely accommodate.

I, for one, am all for it. I just hope the good people at Dodge are considering hybrid dump trucks for their 2006 line. Hugging trees is getting way too expensive.

Comments are closed.