Gas is $10 a gallon? Great news! Here’s why. |

Gas is $10 a gallon? Great news! Here’s why.

Ed Quillen

Just about anywhere you look, you’ll find somebody complaining about high gasoline prices, with many saying the government should do something about it.

But we need to face the fact that the federal government has tried. About 30 years ago, President Jimmy Carter declared energy “the moral equivalent of war,” and launched an ambitious domestic-energy plan that included oil-shale production and synthetic fuel from coal.

It made Carter about as popular as tick fever in the West, especially since prices kept going up anyway. His successor, President Ronald Reagan, sensibly gave up on federal energy plans and let the market handle these things. This wise policy continued under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but for some reason, President George W. Bush has tried to fix it by contriving yet another federal energy plan. Its apparent goal was to enrich his old buddies in the oil industry with subsidies and higher profits ” and hey, what better way to do that than by pinching supply by invading Iraq to keep its oil off the world markets?

Or you can believe that invading Iraq has improved America’s standing and credibility so much that when Bush begged the Saudi government to reduce prices and increase production earlier this year, the Saudis felt free to ignore his pleas. Some influence we’ve gained over there, right?

But as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and it’s time we explored some of the benefits of the $4-a-gallon we’ll likely see this summer:

1. Less congestion. The higher the price, the less people drive. Fewer cars on the road means greater mobility for the remaining vehicles. They’ll get where they’re going more quickly, which means timely arrivals and deliveries, always a benefit to the economy. Further, they won’t be idling in gridlock, so there will be less air pollution. And highway capacity won’t have to be increased with expensive construction.

2. Better tourists. My part of the state, like much of Colorado, is dependent on auto-based tourism. When gas is relatively cheap, just about anybody can afford to come to the mountains. Campsites and fishing holes get overcrowded. But when gas is costly, only the well-heeled can afford to visit. They’re the kind of people who will still have money to spend on plush motel rooms, canned adventures, and gourmet meals.

3. Improved public transportation. Even if it costs an arm, a leg, and a first-born child to fill the tank, people still need to get around. That means they’ll consider riding buses or streetcars in the city, and the more riders, the more public support. Or they’ll walk and bicycle, demanding safer routes, as well as an end to moronic zoning laws that forbid neighborhood stores.

4. An end to meaningless consumption. Granted, this has been a pipe dream to date. When gas hit $1 a gallon, I figured, “Well, at least the kids won’t be cruising F Street every night.” I was wrong. They’re still at it here and elsewhere with gas at $3.65. Outside of town, the hills remain infested with racing ATVs, roaring snowmobiles and ear-splitting dirt bikes. But logic decrees that at some point, the price of gasoline will rise to the point where no one will be able to afford to operate these obnoxious nuisances that serve no useful purpose, and our public lands will be safer and saner places.

So the next time someone complains about high gas prices, don’t join in; point out the blessings that will come at $5 and $10 a gallon.

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