Gas prices got you down? Solutions to our oil addiction

Gas shot up this week because another country with a huge spread between its haves and its have nots decided to try to equalize things by having a little revolution. Libya produces around 2% of the world’s oil- and very little of it reaches the U.S.- but, we’re going to pay, and pay, and pay.

I’ve said before that while everyone blames the banking industry for the financial meltdown- with their slimy secondary market junk paper- the final nail in the coffin was gas at $4 a gallon. If you believe in a “double-dip” recession- get ready for a second bottom falling out- as gas prices continue to skyrocket- thanks in large part to speculators playing games with futures.

Of course, the federal government refuses to start forcing people who trade on commodity markets to actually  trade only in what they will actually buy and take delivery of (that would be too sensible)- and we’ve already decided that mass transit and high-speed rail are not good investments- instead pouring billions of “stimulus money” into roads so the few remaining rich people in this country can drive their luxury cars in luxury.

Once again, I bring up the change that Ohio could make to its motor vehicle licensing laws- and exempt 50cc scooters from any special licensing:

In many states (note, I can find a definitive list for mopeds, but not for scooters) two-wheel vehicles under 50cc don’t require anything but a valid driver’s license – and if they have pedals, may not require a license at all if they can’t go over 30 mph.

In Ohio we’ll allow a 14- or 15-year-old on the road with a moped- with a “probationary license.” Yet, we don’t require a motorcycle helmet or completion of a motorcycle-safety course for adults, we require a motorcycle license to ride anything without pedals. This adds a level of bureaucracy that severely hampers sales of the most energy-efficient scooter- the 50 cc- which all get over 90 m.pg.. Buyers realize that if they have to get a license- they may as well opt for a 125cc or larger scooter.

It also changes insurance costs- lumping the two types together in one category- motorcycle.

It’s time to make a uniform law across the nation that allows 50cc scooters to be ridden by any adult with a valid driver’s license with a helmet to encourage use of these energy-efficient vehicles.

The quickest and easiest way to reduce the need for foreign oil is to use less of it. Inexpensive, quick, fun, 50cc scooters are a huge step in the right direction.

via The 50cc answer to dependence on foreign oil.

I called for a national uniform policy on these highly affordable and efficient forms of transportation in that post- and reminded everyone that this is a matter of national defense. We can’t afford to run out of oil- because we’re far from being able to isolate ourselves from what happens in places they don’t like us very much.

But I’m also going to throw in another aspect to the 50cc solution: it’s a liberating form of transportation for the poor. The ability to get to work for pennies a day – cheaper than public transit by a long shot, 50 cc scooters could transform the mobility of the working poor. To use a line that Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley likes to throw out in defense of bicycling and “complete streets” (streets with bike lanes) – “it’s a social justice” issue (argh- quoting Whaley is painful). For less than the price of a year’s bus pass, people could be on a scooter- and not be limited to bus routes and destinations (they could even make it into the forbidden land of Greene County where a lot of entry-level retail jobs sprang up in former farmland).

Of course, we’re still hosed by rising oil prices because about 25% of our fuel consumption goes into producing our food supply (from fertilizer to farm equipment to the trucks to ship our vegetables ridiculous distances) so scooters won’t save us – they are only part of a possible solution.

I do have a tad of good news in that Motoscooto on Wayne Avenue isn’t dead as previously reported here and elsewhere- he’s decided to re-align his business to selling closeout scooters and low price only (subject to change- knowing Mr. Liff).

Of course, unless you’ve got your head hidden somewhere the sun doesn’t shine- you would realize that Libya won’t be the last oil-producing nation to take to the streets in the coming years- and even with new rulers in the oil breadbasket of the world, there is no guarantee that oil prices will stay either stable or denominated in dollars (when the real bottom falls out).So to further speed up the adoption of highly efficient 2-wheeled vehicles and other high-efficiency vehicles- how about eliminating the sales tax and making the registration costs for these vehicles reduced to a nominal cost nationwide?

To put it in bullet points:

  • No more sales taxes on bicycles, electric vehicles, scooters and vehicles getting more than say- 60 mpg.
  • Nominal registration fees for such vehicles.
  • Low-cost insurance for all scooter and motorcycle riders who have taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and passed.
  • Require all pay parking lots to set aside spaces for high MPG vehicles at a fractional rate- and allow scooters to park on sidewalks free as long as they aren’t impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic (see how they do it in Europe).

The looming crisis requires some kind of response and solution- and invading more oil-producing nations hasn’t exactly solved the problems in the past.

Just as our economy started to show signs of return from the dead- we’re quickly reminded that America is nothing but an oil junky dependent on a fix of cheap oil and bountiful expanses of oil-based asphalt. If we don’t learn to kick the oil habit, we’ll never be safe or stable again.

While our legislators continue to fight over issues that they have no legitimate business in- like gay marriage and abortion- the wheels on our collective bus are about to fall off again.

And no matter how many times Sara Palin screams “Drill, baby, drill”- at some point the supply of oil will not meet demand. The country that solves this problem first will be the next superpower. Yep- gas prices should get you down.

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