Gas usage supports terrorism - Journal of Omnifarious
Jan. 8th, 2003
04:38 pm - Gas usage supports terrorism
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.