Sunday, June 1, 2008

...and that's the way it is

I've never been a huge fan of mainstream media. I was curious what new state of chaos the election was in today, however, and since I'd decided to spend less time surfing the web, I switched on CNN while working on a relatively mindless project.

I won't make that mistake again anytime soon.

The election coverage was fine. Uninspiring and predictably dumbed down, but nothing I didn't expect. It was what came next that had me really irritated.


My summary, (not verbatim), of the show, is as follows:

Rick Sanchez informs us that the government body that is in charge of stuff like commodities is investigating to see whether anything fishy is going on that could be causing oil prices to get so high. He is barely able to conceal the despairing tone in his voice as he asks expert after expert if some vast conspiracy could be responsible for the price of gas being so high. He points out that supply and demand seems like just such a "simplistic" explanation for why gas prices have reached the point they have. I nearly choke on my sandwich. Rick points out that since people are so angry about the price of gas, those guys better watch out when the government finds out who is responsible for all these high prices because boy oh boy, they are not going to be popular at all.

This is followed by a segment in which a field reporter goes for a drive with a guy who gets awesome gas mileage - almost double the miles per gallon than what the manufacturer of his Accord promised. All he has to do is certain "advanced techniques" like TURNING OFF HIS CAR ON THE FREEWAY when he is behind a large tractor trailer, and using the draft to coast a while. He cheerily honks his horn back at everyone beeping at him as they whiz past, as if he thinks he's being applauded for his efficiency. The field reporter admits that he's probably beyond help as he doesn't think there is much he can do to increase the efficiency of his YUKON that he drives in MANHATTAN. I am very close to choking again.

I'm sorry about all the yelling here, but these people have got to be kidding. Are they showing Candid Camera or something on CNN? Nope, there's more! They're actually serious about this crap.

They spend a short while making fun of an (unemployed) guy who drives a scooter, then make fun of a guy who has a pedal powered enclosed bicycle-type thing that he commutes in (who'd want to get around a city in a scooter when you can have a Yukon, hellooooo).

Hey guys, guess what, Rick Sanchez has some news that will probably solve all our fuel problems - there's oil off the coast of Latin America!!! Brazil, to be exact. Well, it is below like ten million miles of water, and a 40 mile thick salt crust below that, and it's under about 500 billion tons of pressure, and it's crappy quality, but there's definitely some oil there. At this point, one of the expert guests is actually asked if this will be "enough". I am so close to choking on the sandwich for the umpteenth time, I decide it is safer if I finish eating once this show is over.

They have a short bit on the dilemma faced by all those poor people who payed over $50,000 for trucks last year and now can afford neither to sell them (because they owe more than they're worth, and with gas prices being what they are, values on SUVs and trucks have dropped) nor can they afford to continue driving these trucks. Cry me a river.

I hear Rick mention to some woman on his show that we've all heard talk about red states and blue states, but this is clearly one issue about which Americans are united in anger.

Rick, I need to correct you here. I cannot let this go on any longer. I resent being lumped with everyone who is angry because they feel that cheap gas is their entitlement, some sort of basic human right along with food, shelter, and freedom of speech. Rick, I am angry because there are so many people out there who bought trucks and SUVs in the first place, for no reason other than that they thought they were cool looking. I'm not talking about people who need four wheel drive because they live on top of a mountain, or people who need trucks because they use them on their farm, or people who have a truck or SUV for any other number of legitimate reasons.
I'm talking about the people who like having an Escalade or a Navigator, and feel like it's the government's responsibility to make sure they can afford to drive those obnoxious things as much as they see fit. Rick, I'm angry because none of these people seemed to give a crap about how their driving choices might affect anybody else, but now we're supposed to be all concerned because they might have to actually give something up to continue being able to afford their choice. Don't look to me for sympathy. I'm all tapped out.

I think these high fuel prices are the wake up call we sorely need. I regret that these prices are causing healthy food choices to become unaffordable for many working class families in this country, and feel sad that it is the unemployed, underemployed, and lower middle class who will probably be affected the most. But I don't feel angry about gas prices. Anger is an illogical response to something like a market force such as supply and demand (simplistic as some may believe those forces to be).

Furthermore, it has become exceedingly clear that if something doesn't happen soon to force us to re-evaluate our lifestyles and habits in this country, we'll never do it. We've been steadily increasing our consumption of oil in this country for decades. If it takes us getting to the point of not being able to afford to drive to make us figure out another way to do things, fine. So be it.

Rick, you stand corrected. I am proud to count myself as one American who is not angry that my fuel costs more. Please excuse me if I don't tune in again any time soon.

EDIT: Apparently a Sunday Post Secret reader has the same sentiments.


Verde said...

Yea!!!! Isn't news wierd? And wierder that that people swallow that stuff! Ha! I'm there with you and laughting righ out loud!

Beany said...

I also chose to tune into the radio and immediately regretted it. But it was interesting, b/c I really spent no time paying attention to any media outlet whatsoever.

People were talking about how they're coping with the increase in gas prices. Some were selling their pickups and SUVs in exchange for smaller cars while swallowing huge losses. One lady mentioned she was using a segway to get to work. Biking, walking and taking public transit was not even discussed (much less hinted at). On one hand its a bit disappointing...on the other...well, law of supply and demand.

Heather @ SGF said...

I'm with you. I'm not angry about gas prices either. If it makes people rethink their gas guzzling habits - yipee!

I have to admit thought that we struggle with alternative transportation. Before I married my hubby, I had no car and I lived in a small apartment right in the center of town so that I could walk everywhere I needed to go. The year before we started dating my hubby (who owns a house further away from the center of town, bought a jeep (about 15 miles per gallon). So when we got married and I moved into his house (there's no way he could have moved into my 350 sq ft apartment with his 3 pets and me and my 1 pet) it was tough. I still refused to drive even the one car and was walking 5 miles round trip almost every day just to get all the groceries home. I was bussing to work but our bus system SUCKS! City bus runs only once an hour and university bus runs more often, but it's a half hour walk to the nearest stop. Some places just weren't made for getting around any other way than by car. THIS HAS GOT TO CHANGE!

Then there's the jeep he bought before we got married. Do we trade it in and - like Beany said - take a hit on something that will only get us 30 MPG? Or keep it in the garage while we bike to work hoping that someday we can buy a car that gets 100 miles a gallon? I wish he'd never bought the thing, but I didn't know him then. I wished we lived closer to things and we even looked at downsizing, but the smaller places we liked were more expensive than our bigger (1800 sq ft) house. What???

So for now, the jeep sits in the garage and we pedal 14-16 miles round trip each day in an area with no bikelanes and tons of debris (that's why my tire popped last week). It's exhausting, but for now, it's what we have.

Willow said...

I found your blog via Debbie. Yeah, why do people think that we are entitled to cheap gas???? And I agree too that people who drive around cities in SUVs and Escalades and huge pimped up trucks have no clue! I lived in Los Angeles (the city!) and was amazed at the number of trucks and SUVs city people drove. Did they think they needed to get over the high rises via pickup truck?

I am interested in reading more of your back posts.

Willow from SoCal

Melissa said...

verde, I think laughing is the only thing that makes me not cry at the ludicrousness of it all!

beany, I wonder if some of the difficulties heather has pointed out are why "mainstream" media don't focus more on things like public transit? maybe it's not widely seen as a feasible option? In Silicon Valley, we have a decent public transit system that very few people ever even consider taking. It's just not how people are programmed to think, I guess. I know if I was heather, I'd have probably given up and grabbed the car keys by now. The problem I think is that now that we're entering a period where demand may be increasing, there just won't be the supply - most cities in this country, in my opinion, do not have adequate infrastructure to meet any actual amount of large demand. I guess adding new buses is easy enough, but adding more trains is a lot trickier. Ah, yet another problem with no easy answer :)

Hi - I really do wish I knew what those people were thinking!! Hopefully one day soon they'll all be thinking wow, this was a bad choice! :)