Yes, I said it. I’m not at all unhappy about higher gas prices. In fact, I would not mind seeing them go up even more.
Got your attention, didn’t I? OK, maybe “like” is a bit of a stretch. But I’m still pretty sanguine. While the mainstream media tend to focus on the downside of higher gas prices, my biggest worry has actually been that Americans might now be less responsive to increases. Today, Angie Schmitt at RustWire highlighted a couple of encouraging cases, in metro Atlanta and in Hawaii, that signal the contrary.
The Takeaway, one of my favorite NPR shows, aired a great interview recently with Christopher Steiner, who got me thinking about the public health benefits of higher gas prices.
Nathan Bomey at AnnArbor.com reported on a study by Thomson Reuters which tallied the effect of chronic diseases and behavioural health on the cost of health care:
Obesity’s effect on health care costs is particularly significant. The index found that of the $670 in additional health care costs attributed to unhealthy behaviors, $400 is connected with high body mass index.
Mark Bittman echoed this in a New York Times editorial about the financial savings that come from a healthy preventive lifestyle. Considering how much attention Medicare spending is getting lately, you’d think politicians be encouraging us fat-asses to ride our bikes or walk to work instead of subsidizing our driving.
AnnArbor.com profiled a few other commuters after my own heart a few weeks back. One commenter expressed my own thoughts perfectly:
I do think it is funny that when gas is cheap, people wonder why we live where we do. When gas is expensive, they say we are lucky to live so close to work. It isn’t “luck”–we deliberately chose a house within walking distance of our jobs.
How many people complain here about the high cost of real estate, taxes, etc. in the city but never factor in the costs of living outside the city that come with having to drive everywhere? Owning a car costs the average owner thousands of dollars per year (gas, car loan, insurance, maintenance). Being able to live in the city and only have one car (or none) can offset the costs associated with a city address.
I know, higher gas prices make everything cost more, will hurt the economy, will disproportionately impact the poor, etc. Let’s not pretend, though, like we haven’t known this was coming for years. In 2008 everybody ran around like headless chickens screaming about $4 gas, and then after the recession hit and prices went back down a lot of people forgot all about it. If it comes as a surprise to you that prices are again creeping up, you clearly haven’t been paying attention… and it’s hard for me to spare much sympathy.
If you’re looking for ways to adapt to rising gas prices, here are a few resources to help:
- Rideshare for Southeast Michigan
- Other local rideshare programs
- Take the bus in Ann Arbor
- Ride a bike in Ann Arbor, elsewhere in Michigan, or elsewhere in the US.
- Take the bus in metro Detroit: SMART or DDOT
- A word of caution about DDOT: it’s not been the most reliable service lately. I’m not saying that to be anti-labour or anything, I just wouldn’t be very happy if I found out the hard way that my bus was going to be running a half hour behind when I was already on my way to work or an appointment.
- Educate yourself about street safety
- And if you’re looking to move, here’s a handy tool to assess the walkability of the different neighborhoods you’re considering.