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Letters 04-21-2014

An Exercise of Power

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What‘s the alternative?

Robert Downes - June 2nd, 2008
A friend claims that people are now drilling holes in other folks’ gas tanks, siphoning gas from boats, and raiding the fuel tanks of vacant cottages to get at the precious liquid inside (slurp, slurp...).
It sounds like an urban legend, but State Police troopers in Manistee say it’s at least partly true (see Anne Stanton’s story on page 8).
Stealing gas or fuel oil seems like a great way to risk becoming your own funeral director, with the cremation thrown in for free.
But seriously, there’s a growing desperation out there now that gas prices have gone past $4 per gallon. The latest news is that the price of natural gas is rising even faster than gasoline, which bodes ill for next winter. You know it’s bad when people in Northern Michigan are willing to risk jail time and losing their drivers’ licenses in order to steal a tank of gas in “drive-offs” at local stations.
You don’t need to look far in the news to see the first ripple of the coming ‘peak oil’ crisis: Recently, President Bush was invited to take a hike by his Saudi Arabian buddies when he tried to get them to pump more sheik’s pee... American truckers are now driving into Mexico to buy their diesel in order to avoid going out of business.... And the BBC reports that things are even worse overseas: it now costs the equivalent of nearly $2,000 to fill the gas tank of a truck in England. Soon, we will hear reports of gas riots around the world, and of course, more oil wars.
So, what to do? Take charge of your own situation.
In a recent “The City” cartoon strip in the Express, White Middle Class Suburban Man wonders how he’ll ever survive without his beloved gas-guzzling SUV. Meanwhile, an empty bus goes by in the background. Locally, that same scenario has played out for years with cynics snickering at the BATA buses circling Traverse City. But lately, those buses seem to be filling up with more riders. We’re going to need those buses and more -- soon.
That’s the point of Smart Commute Week in Traverse City, June 2-6: it’s time to get onboard with alternative transportation -- that involves simply walking to work, riding a bike or moped, carpooling or taking the bus (see the story on page 12, or www.smartcommutetc.org).
Recently, a reader wrote in, asking Northern Express to support Smart Commute Week. Have we ever not supported it? I wondered. We’ve been cheering this horse on for as long as it’s been running around the track.
Personally, I can’t wait for the ice to melt each winter in order to ride a bike to work all spring, summer and fall. It‘s a glorious feeling, passing a long line of cars on your bike and not bleeding your wallet dry for Exxon & Friends in the oil business.
The point is, it‘s possible to actually find a sense of pleasure in changing your commuting habits. As they say, when life hands you a lemon, it‘s time to make lemonade.
Speaking of change, perhaps it‘s time Smart Commute Week considered an upgrade.
For starters, if the week is a good idea in Traverse City, why not all of Northern Michigan? Smart Commute Week should go region-wide, and no doubt, there are people in Petoskey, Manistee, Cadillac, Leelanau County, Gaylord and the Straits area who’d be happy to give it a push if a little coordination and know-how were shared around the region.
In fact, don’t wait for someone to organize a Smart Commute Week in your town: you can do it yourself.
Second: if you enjoy Smart Commute Week, why not keep it going? Why not Smart Commute Summer? It’s nice that people get their consciousness raised for a day or two, along with free breakfast at stops around town for riding their bike to work. But then many of us climb back into our SUVs and spend the rest of the summer hammering the gas pedal.
Why feel good about yourself for a day or a week when you can feel good all year long and save money too?
 
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