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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21 Responses

  1. Marianne Stanley February 27, 2011 / 10:27 am
    Amen to everything you just said, David!!    Soooooo……..how do we go about getting the wheels moving on those actions you bullet-pointed?!??  I know a bunch of people in my neighborhood would sign.  They are the working-for-peanuts poor who are being gouged by bus fares and who have no other form of transportation altho they have a drivers license.  Would love to find a way to put a scooter in their lives! 

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  2. David Esrati February 27, 2011 / 11:08 am

    @Marianne- while a petition might be nice- the real trick is to find some legislators with common sense- and get them to introduce the changes. Of course- judging by what they choose to debate- sexting, collective bargaining, DOMA- sensible legislation like this will probably be ignored.

    If elected- I’d have a shot at least of moving some of the local solutions to the forefront- and hopefully- interfacing with our State Reps and Senators.

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  3. Marianne Stanley February 27, 2011 / 11:20 am
    I have been trying to vote for you but there seem to be forces at work keeping  you off the ballot!  hmmmm……..could that be because you would actually DO some things that need doing?!??

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  4. truddick February 27, 2011 / 11:48 am
    As I’ve noted previously, scooters are a transportation option only in good weather–and not for people (like me) who don’t trust two-wheel vehicles.  In my youth I was knocked off my bicycle several times by careless motorists; getting knocked off a scooter at my age could cripple me.  Anyway, my commute is 30 miles each way, almost all on I-75 (and be not dismayed, I drive a hybrid and must commute only around 150 days per year, so it’s the equivalent of driving approx. 15 miles in an average mph car).
    Why are we not looking at conservation and CAFE?
    We could save millions of gallons of oil if we’d just engineer traffic better.  Try driving from Beavercreek to Trotwood; how many times do you have to stop for ill-timed traffic lights along 35 and 49?  It’s actually no faster to get to the former Salem Mall vicinity by driving the “Olive Road Connector” than Salem Avenue from downtown Dayton.  Any competent traffic engineer knows how to do the math to time traffic lights so that the flow along a major thoroughfare is uninterrupted–and regular maintenance (and upgrades to digital timing) could ensure that motorists save fuel and time.  An added benefit: there would be no advantage to speeding.  But the only local community that seems to care is Oakwood.  Some (Beavercreek) I suspect are intentionally un-timing lights so that their cops can hand out more tickets.
    The nation could save more millions by eliminating toll roads.  Your car loses economy every time you must stop and re-accelerate, and when a few cities generate massive daily traffic jams at ingress points (I heart NY) they’re helping to fund the Arab dictators.
    Finally: why does Europe have average CAFE mileage that’s twice that of the USA?  Legislation.  Squawk about the “nanny state” all you want, but cutting dependence on oil imports is national security, and if people won’t make the individual choice to keep America strong then coercion becomes essential.
    Those steps would generate fuel savings, I think, greater than local use of low-powered scooters when weather conditions cooperate.

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  5. John Ise February 28, 2011 / 12:03 pm
    I’d love to go scooterbut with a family of 5, it’s tricky.  I wonder if scooter producers could ever come up with something between a scooter and a car… a scotter SUV is really what’s needed! 

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  6. Robert Vigh February 28, 2011 / 12:23 pm
    Truddick, lets pretend that a road was private. The only way the owner of the road has to earn revenue is to have more people travel his road. SInce traffic jams and poorly timed lights would have a direct effect on someone’s revenue, how long do you think a private road would stay in this condition?
    And yes, there is technology to still charge people fees and get rid of toll booths. Just a thought.

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  7. David Esrati February 28, 2011 / 2:46 pm

    Just for Truddick: http://www.theautomoto.com

    As for John Ise- one scooter- 4 tow ropes and skateboards…

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  8. Bubba Jones February 28, 2011 / 6:06 pm
    That is VERY cool!!  A little pricey but still a lot more reasonable than something like the “Smart Car”.  Thanks for posting the link, DE.
     
    The only thing it’s missing is some sort of plastic, roll up windows to keep water spray off you when it rains.
     
    It could also use some more aggressive tires to handle the snow we have around here! LOL!

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  9. Melissa March 1, 2011 / 4:01 pm
    Some (Beavercreek) I suspect are intentionally un-timing lights so that their cops can hand out more tickets.

    Aaaaaaamen.

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  10. Ice Bandit March 1, 2011 / 10:02 pm
    And no matter how many times Sara Palin screams “Drill, baby, drill”- at some point the supply of oil will not meet demand. (David Esrati)
     
    …..yessir, dear David, you have been afflicted with a textbook case of PDS. And that, dear David, stands for Palin Derangement Syndrome. Have you noticed how many of your posts you have mentioned her hotness recently, dear David? Methinks if you composed posts about rainbow-trout fishing in Ontario’s Thames River or the proper recipe for apple-pan dowdie, you would find some avenue to diss the Goddess from Wasilla. So the real question, dear David, may not be the solution to America’s oil addiction as much as the solution to your Palin obsession. Intense and continuing interdiction may be necessary, dear David, as well as a regimen of things with potentially wicked side affects…….

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  11. Truth March 1, 2011 / 10:31 pm
    The solution to the problem has more than one, two, or three prongs….
     
    First, we have to be sufficient on our own resources.  Yes, oil is one.  We need to spend less time working on corn type solutions that only drive up the cost of food.  So, while trying to go “green” or “greener”, we essentially don’t progress.  Plus poor people can’t afford alternative forms….the cars rotated from buy here pay here and from junkyard to junkyard will be on the streets for another decade…they run on oil.
     
    Forms like you mention David…are great in certain areas.  Urban?  Yep…all the way.  Suburban or commuters, not so much.  I trust myself on a motorcycle, not the other dude.
     
    Cost.  We will never be able to survive on hybrid technology that is economically feasible for all. (at least not in my lifetime, natural gas or propane…maybe)  A couple years ago I sat down, being a domestic Ford guy, and priced to Ford Escapes.  This was because at the time, their class was one that was easily compared.  One was a traditional 87 octane burner and the other was a hybrid (same options, etc…other than motor).  Overall purchase price was through the roof on the hybrid compared to the other.  I then calculated fuel mileage for the 12k a year driver.  Yes, the hybrid saved money.  Unfortunately not enough to offset the purchase price if you kept each respective vehicle on the road for 10 years.  The follow up problem, was that the expected life span of the batteries in the hybrid was 10 or so years.  Since they were out of warranty, it was roughly 7k to replace them from Ford…and don’t think your local junkyard is going to have them sitting around…
     
    The moral of the story…as a fiscally responsible person…it would have made more sense to drive the 4 banger Escape on 87 octane over the life of the vehicle.  I was upside down on the hybrid at all normal levels of mileage…it wasn’t factored in for the guy driving 50k.
     
    Even with skyrocketing fuel costs, it still is cheaper to go with either traditional forms of transportation or self propelled transportation.  Alternative sources aren’t going to be feasible to the majority of the population.  Either you don’t care about money savings.  Or your care for being “green” outweighs fiscal matters.

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  12. David Esrati March 1, 2011 / 11:33 pm

    @truth- hence my idea for a walk to work tax credit- rewarding businesses and employees that live within walking distances of each other. It’s the only economic development tax credit that truly makes sense.

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  13. joe_mamma March 2, 2011 / 11:00 am
    “And no matter how many times Sara Palin screams “Drill, baby, drill”- at some point the supply of oil will not meet demand.” – David Esrati
     
    The supply has never “met” demand.  If we all had as much oil or anything for that matter that we wanted, then the price would be zero.  That is why free market prices are so important.  They send signals to buyers and suppliers.  Higher prices for oil decrease demand for seemingly frivolous and less profitable ventures liking driving your RV across country, which in turn keeps supply available for profitable ventures like driving to work every day.  Likewise it increases the viability of other resources and technologies.
     
     
    “Alternative sources aren’t going to be feasible to the majority of the population.  Either you don’t care about money savings.  Or your care for being “green” outweighs fiscal matters.”  – Truth
     
    Eventually something will come along that is more “cost” efficient than the gasoline engine.   The first self propelled vehicle was invented by Nicolas Cugnot in 1769.  It was powered by steam and went 2.5 mph and had to stop every 10 minutes or so to build up steam.    It wasn’t until 1886 that  Gottlieb Daimler built the first practical four wheeled gas powered vehicle.   The model T which made cars “affordable” ($850 or $20K in 2010 dollars) to the middle class didn’t come out until 1908.  In 1920 a Model T cost $290 or $3K in 2010 dollars.
     
    Even with all of their experts the Government and Enviro-do-gooders do not know what the next “gas engine” technology is going to be.  As long as we have the freedom to make our own purchase decisions then the ideas will live and die in the marketplace.  The “winner” will be crowned based upon value to the consumer and not the whims of individuals wanting to control our behavior.

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  14. Jeff Dziwulski March 2, 2011 / 11:26 am
    My solution is to Gas prices (and a high-mileage car that needs work) is to walk or take the bus.  And use the car only if absolutley necessary.  Suprisingly enough it is possihble to do this in my little corner of suburban Dayton.  Decision to live close to a bus line has paid off!  Not to mention a fitness regimen of walking about 3 miles per day min, every day, weather permitting. (fortunatly Im still young enough and in good enough health to do this).

    Now, I’m baking my car savings to save up to buy a “utlity bike” (one with baskets, fenders, and saddlebags) so I can ride to Cub to go grocery shopping…or take the bike on the bus downtown to shop at Charlies in OND and the 2nd Street Market.

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  15. Jeff Dziwulski March 2, 2011 / 11:27 am
    …I should say I’m banking my care savings, not baking them

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  16. truth March 2, 2011 / 12:51 pm
    David…In theory it is a good idea that you mention…unfortunately the execution wouldn’t really account for much.
     
    You still have a cost…which is relocating your business to an area with a pool of cycling/walking/etc…workers…or as an employee…relocate your residence/family to earn the credit.
     
    You then still have a reduction in tax revenue if the credit is given.  How much of a credit would you have to offer in order for it to be fiscally doable as a citizen or business?
     
    The fact you mention that can’t be ignored is that a country that is responsible for 2% of the world’s oil, which doesn’t impact the US…has the collective balls of the US in their pocket.  When your weak economic system is impacted by a BS number…you have serious issues.  Deal with the speculators.
     
    Alternate forms of transportation/energy isn’t the solution, it only scratches the surface.  It is like trying to empty a swimming pool with a coffee stirrer.  The solution is not to have to live off the teat of foreign oil.  Alternatives need to be rewarded and researched, but we will never give up our dependence on oil…we need to get rid of our dependence of foreign oil.

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  17. David Lauri April 6, 2011 / 2:39 pm
    My mother had an Osborne 1, and I taught myself to program in MS-BASIC on it.  Ah for the days of CP/M, dual floppy drives taking 5 1/4″ diskettes that could hold 90 KB (yes, kilobytes, not megabytes) each, and a display with 80 characters on 24 lines (128 characters if you didn’t mind scrolling back and forth)!  We even had an acoustic coupler so we could dial into BITNET.  And watch out for grues on Zork!

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  18. David Esrati April 6, 2011 / 3:52 pm

    @Joe Mama- thanks for the trip down memory lane. And David L- my Dad had an Osborne 1- and so did I for a while… until I caught the fever and got a Banana Jr. 6000 and the rest is history.

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