(Cross-posted at Someone Took In These Pants...)
The Law of conservation of energy tells us we can't get something for nothing, but we refuse to believe it.
- Isaac Asimov
They call Los Angeles the "City Of Angels." I didn't find it to be that, exactly.
- The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
* * *
You could see it coming from a mile away.
LOS ANGELES [of course] - Tempers are rising along with gas prices. Gas stations across the country report that drivers are taking out their gas rage against big oil by yelling at clerks and cashiers and sometimes driving off without paying.
The [National Association of Convenience Stores] advises store owners to ensure that employees understand the costs associated with gas, and encourages them to explain to customers that in some cases they aren't making any profits despite the soaring price of fuel. Retailers make about two-thirds of their profits from items inside the store, [Ron Davis, division manager for convenience store operator Fleming Corp.] said.
Police in Los Angeles and San Diego -- the city with the highest gas prices in the nation -- haven't noticed any violent trends toward gas station workers. But there have been gas-related crimes around the nation.
In Austin, Texas, a man was arrested this month for investigation of stealing hundreds of gallons of fuel from underground tanks while posing as a parking lot cleaner. He sold the gas from his driveway, police said.
In Fond du Lac, Wis., the number of reported cases of customers driving off without paying for gas doubled to 100 in the first four months of this year compared to the first four months of 2005, police Maj. Kevin Lemke said.
And another satirical prophecy
has been fulfilled.
Public Outraged As Price Of Fast-Depleting, Non-Renewable Resource Skyrockets
ATLANTA (Oct. 12)--Americans are expressing their outrage at the soaring price of the non-renewable resource gasoline from the passenger seats of their vehicles across the country. "America means having a right to cheap gas without having to say please," said Augusta, GA resident George Rizner, idling in his Hummer H2 in a protest near the Georgia State Capitol. "What are we supposed to do, walk?" Rizner then did doughnuts in a nearby parking ramp until his vehicle stalled. The public continues to express similar frustration at long lines at gas pumps, constant and disruptive road construction, and increasing traffic gridlock, insisting that all these problems can be easily solved with more and cheaper gasoline.
If getting angry over the rising price of a commodity with relatively flat supply and skyrocketing demand after creating a built environment almost solely beholden to the widespread use of that commodity during a massive laissez faire suburbanization that scorned city planning is not a unique characteristic of American society, I don't know what is. Los Angeles and other sprawling megalopolises are getting exactly what they paid for. In subconsciously believing that gas would stay cheap forever, we have ignored age-old wisdom.
IN a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.
"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."
"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:
"IT IS BEST TO PREPARE FOR THE DAYS OF NECESSITY."
Now, there is this whole debate on Kos about the question of price-gouging by the oil companies. And let me tell you that, having spent much of the past year in Alaska (recently and reluctantly moving away), I saw firsthand the greed of which we all know the oil companies are capable. But, along with Jerome a Paris and others, I believe that now is not the time to be looking for price-gouging to explain our gas cost woes at the expense of debating how to relieve them. To be sure, I think the oil companies should be investigated for price-gouging, but no matter what the extent of it turns out to be, simple truths of economics and geology will prevail: oil is half-depleted and increasingly demanded.
The sorry reality of an American public more frequently stealing gas and berating the "messengers" (convenience store clerks) for the large dents in their credit cards after fill-ups reminds us that we can and must rearrange our lifestyles to become much less dependent on oil. It is important to talk about alternative sources of energy for powering transportation systems, but the truth is that conservation, the simplest and most effective solution, will be ultimately needed to avoid the hardships of the impending energy crisis.