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Gas usage supports terrorism - Journal of Omnifarious

Jan. 8th, 2003

04:38 pm - Gas usage supports terrorism

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This is actually in response to a discussion I've been participating in in elkman's journal. I copied my first response over to here because his journal entry was initially friends-only.

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune today, there was an interesting article about how Arianna Huffington (funded by her readers) is placing a number of TV ad spots pointing out a link between SUV ownership (or specifically, gas usage) and terrorism.

This has upset a lot of people. I understand being upset about this, especially since she singles out SUV owners instead of talking about gas usage. But, I don't think she's too off-base.

Every gallon of gas burned makes an equal contribution to terrorism. I would argue that people who own SUVs live farther (on average) from their jobs than people who drive cars. This is because of the high correlation between SUV ownership and living in a suburb.

So, on average, an SUV driver burns more gas, and contributes more to terrorism than your average car owner.

I've argued for a long time that gas should cost $4/gallon. In fact, we should raise the tax on gas so that the war we most likely will end up fighting with Iraq will be paid for entirely by gas taxes. The unrealized externalities involved in living in suburbs and driving SUVs are ridiculous. I don't like my tax money (and the blood of my countrymen) subsidizing someone else's expensive habit. Seems kind of like welfare and certain other unpopular social programs to me. Worse in fact because the beneficiaries like to pretend that they aren't.

For those of you who wonder what 'unrealized externalities' are, they are a cost of a good or service that isn't reflected in it's price. This is often due to subsidies, or because the good or service makes use of a public commons like the environment without providing any compensation for such use to the public. In particular, suburban living is subsidized through taxes that pay for road construction and a military that we use to make sure we remain cheaply supplied with the oil needed to run our cars.

Besides, with the those stupid commercials on television that try to make some idiotic, nebulous link between drug usage and funding terrorism (as opposed to organized crime here and in latin america), I think the much more direct link between gas usage and terrorism needs to be pointed out.

I'm not advocating that we need to stop using oil right now, or even that we need to stop using oil at some point in the future. What I'm arguing is that we should be aware of the true cost and consquences of our behavior, and be able to honestly face it without becoming defensive or hostile. We all make hard choices, and this isn't a perfect world. But, simply ignoring ugly truths doesn't make the world any better.

Current Mood: [mood icon] contemplative

Comments:

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From:elkman
Date:January 8th, 2003 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure if I buy the idea that SUV drivers live farther away from their jobs, on average. I'd like to see a study that either backs this up or refutes it.

As far as my particular situation goes, I live in west Bloomington and work in east Bloomington, so I only have about a six mile commute. I've been lucky enough to have jobs where I haven't had to commute all over creation. (Actually, in a way I've sort of planned things that way, too. I've tended to avoid interviewing for jobs outside of the south and southwest suburbs, mainly because I'd go nuts driving more than half an hour. I have enough of a problem with a 15-minute commute.)

Oh, and should I mention that the mass transit system around here is mostly unresponsive to market demand? I have to wonder how many people live in Burnsville and work in Eden Prairie, and can't possibly ride the bus because there is no bus service between the cities without having to go downtown. And if there was bus service, it probably would cost too much to operate because of the low demand. People would consider driving their car to the Burnsville park and ride, but then realize that the bus stop is a mile from their office.
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From:vikingrob
Date:January 8th, 2003 04:29 pm (UTC)
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And these are the same folks who vote for a governor who has not been particularly supportive of transit in general, and who ought to reconsider his platform. I thought Dick Day was crazy for his "Freedom to Drive" initiative a few years ago, and I believe Ventura was right to veto it.

If the lack of state services over the next four years bothers you, perhaps we should blame Brian Sullivan, who pushed Pawlenty into a campaign promise that I think he should never have made. I think that when 2006 rolls around, he may regret making that promise. If he ends up breaking this promise in the new sesssion, I probably wouldn't blame him, but what he did while he was in the Legislature last year exacerbated the problem.

Oh, and the distance I go each way to work? 5 blocks.
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