Anger Management Gas Station
June 29, 2008 4:36 PM   Subscribe

"Your anger just earned you a car wash, ma'am." Gas prices in California are hovering around an upsetting $4.58 per gallon. One gas station in the Bay Area is offering stress relief: a chance to dunk a Shell employee and an Express Rant for an Express car wash. The owner, Bobak Bakhtiari, tells NPR: “Cashiers are trained to really encourage all forms of expression during the rant. Well, except for throwing a chair through the window.”
posted by msamye (138 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This may be the smartest man on the planet.
posted by hincandenza at 4:46 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good idea.

Still. As a Brit I find it extremely hard to take any of the US whining about fuel prices seriously. When you consider how much fuel is compared to the minimum wage and/or average earnings, it is still a pittance compared to what people have had to pay in the UK for years. And you don't see us dunking cashiers...

Despite fuel prices nearly doubling since I moved to Canada, it's still not even close to what I was paying when I left the UK two years ago. When my friend from London was visiting, he was compaining about fuel hitting the $2.80 a litre mark (although now it's gone down to $2.50). Now that's> expensive. Fuel in the US is now comparable to the prices I was paying when I first started driving some 18 years ago.
posted by Brockles at 4:53 PM on June 29, 2008


It certainly makes good business sense after a fashion.
Personally I've never got the whole getting-angry-at-the-gas-station phenom. I mean, I guess I understand that gas stations are an easy target for the misplaced anger, but they operate on razor thin margins. Out of everyone in the chain, consumers and gas station owners are the ones really taking it in the ass. Guess it is like American workers getting angry at immigrants, misplaced anger. If people ever wised up collectively... well never mind that just won't happen so no use speculating.
posted by edgeways at 4:56 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


$4.79 per gallon in Humboldt County, CA. It's 15¢ less at Costco.

I kind of welcome these staggeringly high prices, if only to hammer home the point that when you elect an oil man to the White House, you stand to get shafted at the pump.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:58 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


$4.58 is not expensive gas. The freakin' $10ish they're paying in Germany right now, that is expensive. North America is still paying S.F.A. for the stuff.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:02 PM on June 29, 2008


As an American, I find it extremely hard to take any of the European whining about whining about fuel prices seriously. When you consider how much bigger the United States is compared to European countries, how much further you have to ship virtually everything, and how much more driving is necessary to the lives of an average American, it makes you wonder if they are paying attention or just like to bash Americans.

Population Density Germany: 232 people per km^2
Population Density United States: 31 people per km^2

Area, Germany: 357,022 km^2
Area, United States: 9,629,091 km^2
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on June 29, 2008 [20 favorites]


If you calculate it as $/mile, the US and Germany are probably paying similarly due to American automakers being "unable" to make cars more efficient, not to mention US consumers being "uninterested" in efficiency.
posted by DU at 5:11 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Brockles wrote:

Despite fuel prices nearly doubling since I moved to Canada, it's still not even close to what I was paying when I left the UK two years ago.


Brockles, I'm not sure how things work in the UK but I was under the impression that you paid such high prices because the fuel was taxed to subsidize - among other things - free health care. We don't get any benefits from paying high prices for fuel. That money goes directly into this prick's pocket. At least that's what I'm pissed about. I'd be much happier if the premium we were spending on gas/oil in the U.S. was being invested back into our infrastructure instead of just subsidizing the greed of people being allowed to rape the middle class into extinction.
posted by any major dude at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Note that the population density of the UK is even higher than that of Germany.
posted by Justinian at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2008


So they're encouraging customers to treat retail employees worse than currently? Well, I'm sure it'll work, but . . .
posted by Countess Elena at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2008


So, Brockles: How long is your commute to work?

Considering that the US is a wide-open place, nearly 40 times the size of the UK, I imagine we consume a *lot* more gas on the average trip than the average Brit.
posted by JDHarper at 5:13 PM on June 29, 2008


European cities are generally constructed in such a way as to facilitate greater use of public transportation than American cities; furthermore, European cars are generally smaller and more fuel-efficient.

Gas prices may be higher in Europe than in America, but the American situation is such that absorbing price increases is harder. This may be the fault of some Americans who were involved with the planning of America, particularly in the horrifically irresponsible and foolish design of America's largely suburban and exurban cities, but nobody in a position to complain had anything to do with it. Going on about how "Oh, that's nothing, [residents of European country] pay [price in European country]!" is pointless.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:14 PM on June 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Also, I think I would applaud that guy more if instead of a stunt he was handing out pamphlets on where to buy electric cars. "Puts himself out of business" pshaw, he can start selling electricity if he ever runs short of gas customers.
posted by DU at 5:19 PM on June 29, 2008


To all Europeans who don't understand why us Americans complain about fuel prices,

Our prosperity for the last 60 years was based on the suburban economy. People lived many miles out in the 'burbs and drove into work. They also had to drive all around to shop for all the consumer goods, as well as take johnny to baseball practice and on and and on. In the 1940s (and still) most of America was very spread out. Look at a map sometime and compare the relative size of Germany, France, or the UK to the USA. Back in the day when gas cost next to nothing this economic model made sense, and investing millions (probably billions) of dollars in a public transportation system made no sense. NO SENSE AT ALL.

So, elsewhere in the world gas can cost $10/gal and people can still get to work/school/store. People in American cannot. Quite literally, we are attached to our cars at the hip and if the price of fuel gets too high the economy will grind to a halt. Actually, we'll just rack up massive credit card debt.

We are doing better. Im not so concerned about the large cities like LA, NY, Boston, Chicago, Seattle. Its the middle sized ones and down that will never be able to afford public transit that are screwed.

This gas station owner though is a genius. Id pay more to dunk Shell employees, even if they werent actually employees.
posted by Parallax.Error at 5:21 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


As an American, I find it extremely hard to take any of the European whining about whining about fuel prices seriously.

Uh-no. Many Americans live in urban areas as dense as Europe. Those country square mile population stats are misleading as they don't take into account:

1. Large parts of the American west have little water and are thus barren of people. Not to mention Alaska.
2. Europe has lots of small rural villages close together, they still have to drive into the nearest urban city.

Of course there is something to the argument, but for the average urban and suburbanite in the US or Europe, it is not much different. IMO this argument gets over-played.
posted by stbalbach at 5:24 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


The correct way to look at the US vs Europe gas price pain index is to look at average household fuel costs. If Europeans really do drive less, than their total fuel bills should be less, on averae, from Americans.
posted by stbalbach at 5:26 PM on June 29, 2008


Population Density Germany: 232 people per km^2
Population Density United States: 31 people per km^2


I live in Sweden. Our population density is 20 people/km². We pay $9 per gallon.
posted by martinrebas at 5:32 PM on June 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


Gas prices may be higher in Europe than in America, but the American situation is such that absorbing price increases is harder.

Yep. Through the rampant stupidity of its automotive industry (steadily and deliberately ignoring the very finite nature of oil supplies) for many years, and the short sighted city planners that refused to consider mass, public transportation as even an afterthought when planning cities. Especially any that have been built since the 1970's fuel crisis (when the vulnerability of fuel prices should have been made painfully obvious).

America and its automotive industry has refused, point blank, to respond to the threat of oil prices rising - as they have done consistently and regularly for many, many years. It's cities are sprawling messes that now are utterly unsuitable for public transport (never mind actually walking anywhere, god forbid!) and so now it is unable to react to a situation that only the ostriches didn't see coming.

This is not to do with who you have in office, nor any oil ties he may have. This was an inevitable result of a finite resource of much value (monetary and otherwise) becoming more and more expensive to produce and being produced by notoriously volatile countries. The fact that America didn't see this coming is entirely its own fault. The fact that most European vehicles are around twice as efficient as a comparable american model, and the totally backwards nature of the marketing in the US until about 3 years ago (more, more more!!!! Fuel efficie-what?) just meant that when the inevitable crunch came, it came with a bump for the people trying to ignore it. This is much more the reason why Europe has been much less affected (although the affect is still significant) than the US. The industry saw this coming.

Don't blame the size of your country, nor your commute (which is entirely a personal choice how far you live from work, within reason) but blame your automotive industry and short sighted city planners and government strategists (for the last 30 years). They gave you this mess. It's not like people can't live closer together without ruining their standard of living. Just look over the Atlantic for inspiration.

Despite our additional taxes in the UK (where my commute ranged between 15 and 60 miles a day, incidentally), the fact remains that petrol was the same price (direct conversion) as it is now in the US in 1990. That doesn't even take into consideration the much higher disposable income that US families have, nor the fact that (direct conversion) the wages are effectively higher here - the same money goes a hell of a lot further here, fuel prices included.
posted by Brockles at 5:36 PM on June 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


I've said this before and I'll say it again. The impact of high oil prices is just beginning.. When consumers start to see an increase in the price of everything they purchase because of the cost of transportation, in an economy already destroyed by the cost of an 800 billion $ war (and the prospect of yet another one), we'll see an uprising here.......
posted by HuronBob at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2008


In related (cha-ching) news ...

As Americans suffer at the pump, energy industry basks in luxury.
"Soaring oil and gas prices may be a fiscal drag for much of the nation, but in Houston, they are feeling an economic surge. 'Few places have flourished like Houston, home to hundreds of oil exploration, engineering and oil service firms, including such giants as Baker Hughes and Halliburton.' The Chicago Tribune reports:
'Here in Houston, Maserati sales are up 86 percent so far this year, according to the TexAuto Facts Report.

Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent are expanding their luxury stores at the Galleria shopping mall. New construction permits in the city have jumped by almost 30 percent. The region added more than 100,000 jobs last year. And the mayor just proposed a dream budget for next year featuring more cops and lower property taxes.'
'We know that everybody is talking about a recession in the U.S., but we’re not experiencing that here,' said Tracye McDaniel, executive vice president of the Greater Houston Partnership, a business development group. 'We exist in this bubble, if you will.'"
posted by ericb at 5:37 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, elsewhere in the world gas can cost $10/gal and people can still get to work/school/store. People in American cannot.

Sorry, but that's rubbish. Fuel is in no way a significant enough cost here to pretend that people can't afford to go to work or school because of it. Overplaying a mild inconvenience (made worse by your crap cars) is the main reason the rest of the world mocks your complaining.

Yes, fuel prices suck. Yes it makes life harder, but America is STILL not feeling anything like the pinch that the rest of the world has for years, so the amount of whining kind of gets on people's tits...
posted by Brockles at 5:39 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel bad for the guy getting dunked.
posted by Dizzy at 5:42 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


So, elsewhere in the world gas can cost $10/gal and people can still get to work/school/store. People in American cannot.

Sorry, but that's rubbish. Fuel is in no way a significant enough cost here to pretend that people can't afford to go to work or school because of it.


What's the "here" you're referring to?
posted by tristeza at 5:46 PM on June 29, 2008


Population Density Germany: 232 people per km^2
Population Density United States: 31 people per km^2

Area, Germany: 357,022 km^2
Area, United States: 9,629,091 km^2


OK, let's try that with a different country.

Population Density Australia: 2.6 people per km^2
Area, Australia: 7,682,300 km^2

Current gas prices: around $A1.55/litre

Which would be US$1.49/litre. 1 US Gallon is 3.7858 litres. Which means the Aussies, with nearly as large an area and a much smaller population density, are paying US$5.64 per gallon.

So, yeah, what other people said about American exceptionalism. Doesn't wash, sorry.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:46 PM on June 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Population Density Australia: 2.6 people per km^2
Area, Australia: 7,682,300 km^2


Which is dishonest, since Australia is almost entirely uninhabited.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:59 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


"I live in Sweden. Our population density is 20 people/km². We pay $9 per gallon."

Yes, but you have gorgeous amazonian blond women, so it all evens out.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:00 PM on June 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


What's the "here" you're referring to?

Sorry, should have made that clearer - US and Canada (where I work/spend a lot of my time and work/live respectively).

Which is dishonest, since Australia is almost entirely uninhabited.

So are large tracts of the US. The point was, I think, that the density of the populated areas doesn't vary between countries quite as drastically as statistics like that suggest.
posted by Brockles at 6:01 PM on June 29, 2008


Which is dishonest, since Australia is almost entirely uninhabited.

There's nothing dishonest about it. Justinian's entire point was about population density and areas. If it's dishonest to quote the numbers about Australia, it's no less so to do it with America and Germany, Justinian's examples.

My point was less about how much crude calculations like those can tell us as it was about trying to make a point through oversimplification.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:03 PM on June 29, 2008


Especially any that have been built since the 1970's fuel crisis (when the vulnerability of fuel prices should have been made painfully obvious).

Yeah, if we, as a country, weren't able to wake and get smart after than mess, then we deserve everything we're going to get in the coming years. We can't go around blaming people and making excuses if we're too dumb to learn.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:11 PM on June 29, 2008


"We here at Express Car Wash feel bad that you can't waste as much gasoline as you used to. Please, let us help by allowing you to waste water instead."
posted by mightygodking at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's the "here" you're referring to?
I think he means "within the context of this discussion"
posted by southof40 at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2008


It's like the rich kid complaining when his daddy's got sacked off the board of directors so he can't go to Nice this summer and instead has to make do at Martha's Vinyard. Once he's summering in the back yards of his neighbors, cleaning out their pools, someone may listen to him whine. Or, maybe not -- they'll just snarl, "hey, kid, shut up over there, I'm not paying ya for conversation, I'm paying ya to get the scum out of my skimmer. We all gotta make a living, y'know?"
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:15 PM on June 29, 2008


The whining is because the fuel prices rose so quickly. I remember when I started driving in 2002 I could buy gas for a little over $1/ gal. Now its almost $5/ gal. Link. Transportation is just as important as bread or water in an economy where people dont produce all of their own goods. Imagine if the price of food rose by 4x in under a decade.

We built the infrastructure that appeared intelligent with the resources available in the 1950s and 60s. The idiocy happened after the first gas shock of the 70s when we went into denial mode instead of planning mode. The recent mess in Iraq is just the latest example of "America can only operate on oil, where can we get some?" Personally, I think these high gas prices will lead to the right kinds of changes in the American outlook on community and lifestyle planning. But its gonna hurt, and just like I wont begrudge someone for complaining about their broken arm that was their own fault I dont fault people who are in serious economic shape because of the sharp rise in gas prices.
posted by Parallax.Error at 6:20 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think it's probably reasonable to add that my ex and my kids live in rural Georgia, and basically every time they need to go into town it's about $20 in gas RT. I do hope they can sell that lovely house in the mountains and move into a city very soon or they're going to go broke. The situation sucks, no doubt about it, but when she starts going off about "why should we have to live in a box?" [meaning an apartment], the last shreds of any sympathy I might otherwise have had vanish utterly.

These are hard times, no doubt, and change isn't easy. And yet, most will survive and thrive. It's what humans do.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:22 PM on June 29, 2008


H-town gangstaz represent
posted by Burhanistan at 6:28 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


My point was less about how much crude calculations like those can tell us as it was about trying to make a point through oversimplification.

What is certainly true is that what you folks overseas are paying above cost (due to taxation) is going into your infrastructure, e.g. healthcare system, public transportation. Whereas what we're paying above cost is profit for ExxonMobil, Halliburton et al., which we will never see again. And by never, I don't mean that ExxonMobil and Halliburton lie about reinvesting their profits, I mean never, as in we the people will never see any tangible return from that. There is profit and there is economic violence, and the average American is the victim of economic violence.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:33 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


"If Friday's jump were fully priced into retail gasoline prices, they would increase about 25 cents a gallon, Gheit said.

So far, that hasn't happened because low demand for gasoline, as well as a mandate for refiners to use corn-blended ethanol, has kept U.S. refining margins weak, he said.

According to Credit Suisse, a U.S. Gulf Coast refinery can make about $16.03 from turning a barrel of oil into gasoline and other products. That's down from $28.59 a year ago.

So far, profit incentives to produce gasoline are so anemic that major refiners like Valero Energy Corp are shutting down gasoline-making equipment.

"They are all cutting (gasoline production) because they say they are not in the business of losing money," Gheit said. "They are not running a charity for the truckers and the motorists."[1]

Ah, the Invisible Hand, ain't it grand.
posted by yort at 6:34 PM on June 29, 2008


I don't mean that ExxonMobil and Halliburton lie about reinvesting their profits, I mean never

actually, it's worse than that, the profits from their ill-gotten gains will be reinvested in securing further resource ownership positions.

The twin real estate and oil price shocks have made my geolibertarian dalliance that started in late 2002 all the stronger; the proper tax policy is IMO critical, without it we will continue to chase our tails this century, right down the path to banana republic.
posted by yort at 6:39 PM on June 29, 2008


While I'm sure that I'll start paying more for everything soon, because of the rising gas prices here in the US, I've got no sympathy for folks who choose to live in suburbs and drive SUVs. I chose to live in the city, with no car and take public transportation. Yes, it makes me an insufferable bitch, but I made the right choice.

I am infuriated by oil company price gouging. Not surprised - been waiting ever since we all rolled over and let Dubya and friends steal two elections.

Europeans have every right to be laughing at us and calling us whinging twats. We are.
posted by QIbHom at 6:49 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


investing millions (probably billions) of dollars in a public transportation system made no sense. NO SENSE AT ALL.

So you're saying that the rest of the world was wildly irrational for investing in public transportation while the United States was doing the only thing that "made sense"?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2008


It doesn't actually matter how much more expensive petrol is in Europe than America, or any two countries. If you were paying half as much for petrol five years ago (like I was when I started driving in Australia) then it still hurts, regardless of how much more expensive it may be in other places. If the rent on a tin shed in Bangledesh doubles in price, it'll still hurt the owner even though it's still dirt cheap by our standards.
posted by twirlypen at 7:13 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The problem with public transportation is that it's utterly horrible.

You get to wait in a hot, stifling, underground station that's infested with rats and crazy hobos for an ever-more delayed train. When it finally comes, it's so packed that you have to elbow your way in to the stinking mass of riders and stand there, being jostled rudely from all sides, breathing their body odor, flatulence, and halitosis while the train inexplicably stops mid-tunnel and the air conditioning goes out.

I don't blame people for being hesitant to embrace this crap! Buses are basically the same, except maybe less crowded, more hobos, and much longer delays. Seriously, nobody with any reason to ever be anywhere should take a bus. You'll lose your job before you get there--fuck, your company will probably get bought out, go under, etc. all while you're sitting in that bus. Your kids will grow up, grow old, and die before the bus manages to get you home.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:18 PM on June 29, 2008


Considering that the US is a wide-open place, nearly 40 times the size of the UK, I imagine we consume a *lot* more gas on the average trip than the average Brit.

No one forced us to actually live a wide open manner. I mean, just because it's a long drive from NY to LA doesn't mean people do it every week. And speaking of NY and LA, just look at the difference in gas consumption between those two cities. The Newyorker will use far, far less gas then the Los Angelino there is good urban transit and everything is packed close together, despite the fact they are both in the same country.
posted by delmoi at 7:36 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Back in the day when gas cost next to nothing this economic model made sense, and investing millions (probably billions) of dollars in a public transportation system made no sense. NO SENSE AT ALL.

We did invest billions into a "public transportation system" -- they're called highways. Check this report out. There's a nice chart in there about how much roads cost in "lane miles", which is the cost to lay down one lane of road for a mile. The minimum there is $1M per lane mile. A basic estimate of the quantity of roads is 4M miles. The Federal Highway Administration (p 802) will spend $40B this year, and that number doesn't include any state spending. We've spent trillions on this transportation system.
posted by breath at 7:39 PM on June 29, 2008


More cake and circus, please?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:40 PM on June 29, 2008


Investing in the national highway system and building an economy and infrastructure based on exceedingly cheap oil was intelligent when we made those choices in the 1950s and 60s. The big pain is that the people who are paying for America's mistakes are not the people who chose to make them. My grandparents (age 72) were able to enjoy all the benefits of the cheap oil culture and my parents are old enough (47) to be financially insulated from its effects today. People slightly younger than my parents and people of my age (22) are having to bite the bullet for others who made choices without thinking about the long term impact of their decisions.
posted by Parallax.Error at 7:42 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I take the bus during the winter months and somehow seem to remain gainfully employed. During the summer months, I ride my bike.

I guess my meaningless datapoint cancels out your meaningless datapoint.
posted by anomie at 7:42 PM on June 29, 2008


That was in response to Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:18 PM, by the way.
posted by anomie at 7:43 PM on June 29, 2008


Why did this post have to get derailed by some douche from the UK who just can't understand why we are upset about high gas prices? Hey buddy from the UK, you don't have to compare every frigging aspect of your life to that of people in the US to make us feel marginalized, thanks. I want to fight you.
posted by pwally at 7:44 PM on June 29, 2008


The problem with public transportation is that it's utterly horrible.

Public transit works just fine when it's properly funded and managed. Hell, it even works when it's not properly funded and managed—Toronto's transit system is a mess and yet is relatively clean, free of hobos, and depending on where you're going, offers decent service.

But then your transit rant was so ridiculously over the top that it's probably a troll anyways. Or maybe you live in L.A.
posted by chrominance at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I commute on the subway in NYC. It really is hot, stinking, crowded, and prone to inexplicable and frustrating delays.

I used to take the bus in a different US city, and it wasn't unusual to be delayed by an hour or more, and this was during commuting hours. I didn't have a car, and taking it during off hours was just ridiculous.

I wish I weren't so poor.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:54 PM on June 29, 2008


pwally, I'm from the US FWIW, and I can totally understand how the discussion of this thread got to where it did. I am going to work tomorrow and am almost certainly going to have to listen to my cubemate with a dualie GMC who drives 20 miles each way whine about gas prices. This is the same guy who listens to Hannity daily and believes in "personal responsibility." He made the bed, now he can lay in it. Personally I hope gas prices double. The people in the link? With all the "anger"? They can lay in it too.
posted by anomie at 8:04 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem with public transportation in America is that it's utterly horrible.

Having lived in Tokyo for 8 years, I felt compelled to, as they say, fix that for you.
posted by yort at 8:05 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Population Density Germany: 232 people per km^2
Population Density United States: 31 people per km^2

Canada: 3 people per km^2.

You think you have to drive long distances in the United States? Here in Canada we have to go ten times as far! Plus, an average place in Canada gets only 5 hours of daylight in the winter. Not only that, the average square km in Canada has only one road, so most of our driving is off-road. We have to drive all night to get to work on time, usually get stuck in the snow and attacked by polar bears on the way, and then drive all night again to get home.

Also, I think I would applaud that guy more if instead of a stunt he was handing out pamphlets on where to buy electric cars. "Puts himself out of business" pshaw, he can start selling electricity if he ever runs short of gas customers.

We can run cars on electricity? Five gallons of regular unleaded electricity, please. Yeah, that ought to provoke some good anger, telling someone who can't afford gasoline to choose between spending $109000 for an electric car, or getting one that goes 1/3 the speed and 1/10th the range. But that's a rant for another day.

I think it's not just the high price that gets people crazy, it's the growing fear that the price is just going to keep going up forever. Well, it's one step better than denial I guess.
posted by sfenders at 8:11 PM on June 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Interesting, sfenders. I guess next up will be bargaining, no?
posted by anomie at 8:16 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish I weren't so poor.

Libertarians don't get to complain about how much being poor sucks.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:23 PM on June 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think it's not just the high price that gets people crazy, it's the growing fear that the price is just going to keep going up forever.

You mean it's the growing realization that the price is going to keep going up forever. For people just figuring this out, that's much worse.
posted by mightygodking at 8:30 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I commute on the subway in NYC. It really is hot, stinking, crowded, and prone to inexplicable and frustrating delays.

As someone whose commute involves the New York subway, I can tell you that it is none of those if you time it properly.
posted by oaf at 8:35 PM on June 29, 2008


SUV's as status symbols or those commuting 50 miles from an exurban palace = failure. No sympathy there. But those people do not represent the typical American.

Those who live in between the cities and the exurbs are the people who are feeling the pain and deserve some sympathy. These people own small homes and love their communities. To see it all slipping away because of the price of gas even though they may drive Hondas is heartbreaking.

Many people's standard of living is ticking downward, and telling them to take it up the ass isn't quite fair. We all elected governments that enacted these policies (its been goin on since after WWII), and we have all been represented by politicians who failed to inform the public about the end result of the oil culture. Maybe we'll figure it out this time.
posted by Parallax.Error at 8:42 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Libertarians don't get to complain about how much being poor sucks.

I'm not a libertarian, but why the hell shouldn't they get to?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:44 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's all this about Europeans not being upset about gas prices? Europeans have blocked the streets in protest over the high gas prices! They're plenty mad.

I know it's fashionable to always say that Europeans are more reasonable than Americans, but that doesn't make it true.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:46 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else enjoying the irony of the US/Germany comparison, considering that's where Ike got the inspiration for the interstate highway system?

Also, fuck dualies. My town crawls with them and I can't remember the last time I saw anything in the bed of one. I hope gas prices triple.
posted by scope the lobe at 8:47 PM on June 29, 2008


Five gallons of regular unleaded electricity

PG&E's off-peak E-9a rate says: that'll be $9!

Actually, the thermal & mechanical efficiency of gasoline-powered cars is only about 0.2, while the efficiency of battery-power is (SWAG) 0.6, so the real consumption cost of 5 gallons' worth of electricity is more like $3.00, or 60 cents per "gallon".

Unfortunately, LiPo batteries cost about $10/charge cycle, so assuming a charge every "5 gallons" brings the consumable cost to $13, which is over $2 per gallon-equivalent.

LiPo may be recyclable, bringing that $10/charge cycle cost down a bit, haven't done any research yet.

Being a P.O. believer, I bought my Miata in 2000 with the intent of converting to battery power after the power train starts going out. I might have another 8 years on it, so the plan is looking good . . .
posted by yort at 8:48 PM on June 29, 2008


Gas is around 5 bucks a gallon here in Canada, and life goes on.
posted by jokeefe at 9:01 PM on June 29, 2008


You mean it's the growing realization that the price is going to keep going up forever. For people just figuring this out, that's much worse.

Imagine what kind of stunts gas stations will pull at $7 a gallon. Dunk tanks < Goat sacrifices.

Bouncing off the electric car thoughts -
We're still in a bind for the future of how we're going to power the cars that large amounts of North America depend on. Producing the electricity to power your electric car is still pretty dirty, even at $9 for regular unleaded electricity and the 'clean' hydropower destroys the Pacific Northwest river ecology.
posted by msamye at 9:03 PM on June 29, 2008


Interesting, sfenders. I guess next up will be bargaining, no?

Stuck at Stage Two
posted by BinGregory at 9:20 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I want to fight you.
posted by flod logic at 9:21 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Countess Elena writes "So they're encouraging customers to treat retail employees worse than currently? Well, I'm sure it'll work, but . . ."

I've worked at a gas station. I'd gladly take the dunking over working at the counter, given the choice. People getting angry when they're paying at the counter will take it out on you in ways that aren't all that fun.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:37 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing that kills me is that in the early 2000's when gas was around $1 a gallon, that was the cheapest it has ever been. Surely I couldn't have been the only one at the time thinking "there is no way this is the 'real' price of fuel."
posted by maxwelton at 9:43 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why did this post have to get derailed by some douche from the UK who just can't understand why we are upset about high gas prices?

Oh, I understand it perfectly. I just really don't think that you are in the slightest bit justified to make the amount of fuss your countrymen do, considering the significantly smaller impact it has on your cost of living compared to the rest of the many places I have lived.

I want to fight you.

Feel free to drive up here and have a go. Oh. Wait. You cant afford the fuel. You need to save the money for the breadline in the morning.
posted by Brockles at 9:45 PM on June 29, 2008


gas

Petrol!
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:06 PM on June 29, 2008


Gas prices around the country as percentage of income: far more meaningful than this national pop-density stuff.

Most Americans are spending a very modest 5% of income on petrol. How thinly stretched are Americans that a rise from 2-3% to 4-5% is busting everyone's wallets! My fuel costs jumped overnight from about 10% to about 15% of my income with Malaysia's national subsidy reduction a few weeks ago. Thus: Very Little Sympathy.
posted by BinGregory at 10:38 PM on June 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've always kind of hated San Bruno because it co-opts my vanity Google searches. No, that's not what I meant! Dan is not a typo!

Anyway, now I hate it a little bit less.
posted by danb at 11:00 PM on June 29, 2008


I'd really like to see people in the US do something about it, like not fighting stupid wars, using their ingenuity to invent alternative energy sources and more efficient cars.

Instead we get whining, dunking and prayer circles.
posted by DreamerFi at 11:15 PM on June 29, 2008


thanks BinGregory, finally a sensible post. that graph adds some perspective.

I occasionally rent cars so gasoline expenditure is less than 0.5% for me. I can't imagine how bad this is for those in the 16% bracket.
posted by bhnyc at 11:34 PM on June 29, 2008


Current price of diesel in UK - $10.17 a US gallon. Fuel price without fuel duty, VAT, or VAT on fuel duty, $4.88 a US gallon.

Current cost of fuel use, driving the absolute minimum to get to work and shops in a rural area, around 30 miles a day in the most fuel efficient vehicle I could afford; $240 a month. Did I mention the council tax going up 6.5% every year for the last decade, food prices going up 20% in the last year, electricty and natural gas prices going up 15% this year alone, with another 40% rise on current prices to come by the end of the year, fuel prices going up by 25% this year, with my mortgage about to go up 25% due to end of my fixed rate? while my income goes up by 2.5% ? All while my unelected dictator does everything he can to make it worse?

Quite happy to have that fight, pwally, even if i'm not the original douche, because I want to beat the crap out of someone.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:53 PM on June 29, 2008


I can quit anytime.
posted by telstar at 12:15 AM on June 30, 2008


Your ex-exchequer? I think his old job had a cooler sounding name. Damn. Well, we've clearly established that we're all pissed off with good reason. Revolution?

nah, not while theres dunk tanks available.
posted by Parallax.Error at 1:01 AM on June 30, 2008


I think the pissing contest in this thread is hilarious. Having lived both places, I can say that living in the UK is unequivocally more expensive than the US, full stop. Even at today's prices. There's more to life than money, though.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:11 AM on June 30, 2008


Still. As a Brit I find it extremely hard to take any of the US whining about fuel prices seriously. When you consider how much fuel is compared to the minimum wage and/or average earnings, it is still a pittance compared to what people have had to pay in the UK for years. And you don't see us dunking cashiers...

UK Minimum wage is £5.73 per hour or $11.41. California minimum wage is $8.
A litre of unleaded petrol at my local garage costs £1.22 giving a US gallon equivalent of $9.20 per gallon. So, despite being a lot more expensive a gallon of fuel in the UK costs just over 80% of a British minimum wage versus 115% of a Californian minimum wage.
posted by rongorongo at 3:39 AM on June 30, 2008


Having lived both places, I can say that living in the UK is unequivocally more expensive than the US, full stop.

It depends on which two locations in each country you're comparing.
posted by oaf at 4:05 AM on June 30, 2008


'A litre of unleaded petrol at my local garage costs £1.22 giving a US gallon equivalent of $9.20 per gallon. So, despite being a lot more expensive a gallon of fuel in the UK costs just over 80% of a British minimum wage versus 115% of a Californian minimum wage.'
A gallon of fuel in the UK costs 80% of a minimum wage hour. In California a gallon of fuel costs 57% of a minimum wage hour, not 115%. Californians aren't buying their fuel in the UK. Certainly not those on a minimum wage.
posted by edd at 4:19 AM on June 30, 2008


It depends on which two locations in each country you're comparing.

London is the most expensive city in the world (to live in). We can start there, surely. So London is more expensive than NYC, LA, Atlanta, Chicago... etc.

Let's move on to Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester... all very, very expensive places to live. I don't know quite what you're getting at.

I lived in a very rural part of the US, and now I live in a rural part of the UK. I pay a lot more to live here. I never bitch about it though! It's fucking worth every penny to live here.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:01 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dizzy writes: I feel bad for the guy getting dunked.

Have you ever been in a dunk tank? That shit is fun! When it's hot out? Even better! If I worked at a gas station, I'd want to work at that gas station.
posted by lunit at 5:26 AM on June 30, 2008


The problem isn't with the oil companies. The problem is that you are not praying hard enough.

For God so loves America that he gave it a gasoline discount.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:08 AM on June 30, 2008


So London is more expensive than NYC, LA, Atlanta, Chicago... etc.

And minimum wage in the UK is relatively huge. It may cost more to live there, but relative to the typical wage, I'd be surprised if it's actually that much more expensive.

I lived in a very rural part of the US, and now I live in a rural part of the UK.

The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."
posted by oaf at 7:28 AM on June 30, 2008


When consumers start to see an increase in the price of everything they purchase because of the cost of transportation, in an economy already destroyed by the cost of an 800 billion $ war (and the prospect of yet another one), we'll see an uprising here.......

Right. We'll see an "uprising" of more people staying home and watching TV. Or (gasp) downloading free music and movies.

HIGHER HIGHER HIGHER!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:21 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I think I paid about $9/gallon when I visited France last fall.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:23 AM on June 30, 2008


People slightly younger than my parents and people of my age (22) are having to bite the bullet for others who made choices without thinking about the long term impact of their decisions.

This is true in word but not in spirit. We'd do it all over again if we could.
posted by invitapriore at 8:41 AM on June 30, 2008


mightygodking: sadly, I don't think it's the realization yet for most. Heck, ask the average person on the street how much crude the US produces and imports. Ask them when the US peaked. Ask them to rank our largest importing nations and what the decline of cantarell might mean to this.

With the talking heads squawking mostly about speculators taking rich profits, and the fear of terrorism, occaisionally there might be a mention about "'so-called' peak-oil theory" with the same tone of reverence that creationist reseve for the "'so-called' theory of evolution" it leaves little doubt in my mind that people are only afraid that oil/gas will keep going up.

The gas station across the street from me cuts prices most nights by .02/litre after 7pm (right when I finish work which is great for me). As such it's always full, and watching people interact (and occaisionally interacting with them) is quite interesting. If I mention that gas prices will likely keep going up more often then down, all of shut down the conversation, and turn to talk to someone else. If people keep talking about how the US in Iraq is all to blame, or the bastard oil companies making record profits (without wondering why), then they start getting more animated in a feed back loop with each other.

Maybe next time, I'll just look for a way to blame Harper?
posted by nobeagle at 8:44 AM on June 30, 2008


And minimum wage in the UK is relatively huge. It may cost more to live there, but relative to the typical wage, I'd be surprised if it's actually that much more expensive.

You've clearly never been there. Be prepared to be very, very surprised. Perhaps listen to the fact that not one single person who has ever visited, lived or experienced both countries says anything other "holy crap, the UK is expensive to live in".

It is. Very much so. Especially when the same number of dollars often buys you the same item as it is in pounds (ie the exchange rate means it is actually twice the cost in the UK - £1.22 for fuel versus $1.22 in a comparable location for instance). Being as the minimum wage (and certainly the average wage) is nothing like twice that of the US, then an awful lot of americans don't realise quite how easy they have it. A quick google search show that the average wage of £23,764 is only around 22% higher than the US average wage of 38,651. It sure as hell isn't just 22% more expensive to rent, buy food or buy houses, that's for sure. The UK is a very expensive place.
posted by Brockles at 9:10 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Be prepared to be very, very surprised.

So the UK has many more poor people than the United States?
posted by oaf at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2008


Somehow it doesn't surprise me that the location where a gas station would have resort to implementing customer rage control measures would be the Bay Area.
posted by blucevalo at 9:21 AM on June 30, 2008


So the UK has many more poor people than the United States?

Did you know that it doesn't have quite as many people? Did you have any percentages you wanted to come up with?
posted by Brockles at 9:26 AM on June 30, 2008


Did you know that it doesn't have quite as many people?

I meant proportionally. If the cost of living is a higher percentage of the average wage, presumably people in the UK are not as well off on the whole.
posted by oaf at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2008


Yes. Precisely. That was pretty much the point. The US may have a greater range from extreme wealth to extreme poor, but on average you are precisely right.
posted by Brockles at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2008


Wow. I thought the average Briton was better off than the average American.
posted by oaf at 9:53 AM on June 30, 2008


A quick google search show that the average wage of £23,764 is only around 22% higher than the US average wage of 38,651. It sure as hell isn't just 22% more expensive to rent, buy food or buy houses, that's for sure.

The British are not required to pay for healthcare out of income. Given the huge cost of health insurance in the US, your numbers will need some serious upwards adjustments.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 AM on June 30, 2008


Unless you spend 38% of your wages on healthcare, it isn't going to even bring parity, though, is it? It is certainly not that significant a variable.

Besides, what people fail to tell you is that doctors visits and the like are free (for the most part, a reasonable proportion of the population has private health care to make up for the failings of the government system) but you still have to pay for all the prescriptions and drugs that you are prescribed (unless you are on income support of some type). It's not quite the all-encompassing, free for all, that it is presented as by those that don't understand it.

Wow. I thought the average Briton was better off than the average American.

Just check some of the consumer goods the average household has. I hadn't even seen double width fridges, or 50" TV's outside of houses that had their own grounds and Porsches on the drive until I came to the US/Canada. The amount of disposable wealth the average american has (and the cheap products available to spend it on) is crazy compared to the UK.

Besides, do you think that UK people live in those little houses with only one bathroom just for fun? Not because that's all they can afford?
posted by Brockles at 10:21 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem with public transportation is that it's utterly horrible.

...and maybe that would change if more middle class folks had a stake in it. I personally get sick of the condescending remarks, or outright statements of "only poor people ride the bus!" made to me when I explain how I get to work--from suburbanites (and urbanites) out here who have spent 25-35 years of never once utilizing the public transportation system (buses and light rail, all of them clean, modern, safe, and with decent coverage....but OMG THE POORS AND THE BROWNS RIDE THEM AND I HAVE HAD A CAR SINCE I WAS 16 BECAUSE WE ARE SUCCESSFUL CLEAN PEOPLE!).


And along those lines, maybe all this gas station rage could be channeled into something a little more constructive and long term as well. Maybe scream to stop subsidizing a trillion-dollar war in Iraq, with increased aggression towards Iran; or push for more alternative energy solutions, etc.
posted by availablelight at 10:28 AM on June 30, 2008


Unless you spend 38% of your wages on healthcare, it isn't going to even bring parity, though, is it? It is certainly not that significant a variable.

You'd be surprised. Anecdote is not data, but I found out how much my broken knee cost and it was shocking. I can only imagine how much worse it is for Americans with chronic ailments requiring multiple treatments and/or ongoing medication.

I wouldn't know how to begin to translate this into a percentage to make an equivalent comparison, but when Americans get sick or hurt, there are other costs from lost wages, lost jobs, not to mention hoping that your insurance will cover the bills if you're lucky enough to keep the job.

Direct and indirect healthcare costs in the US are a massive drain on the economy, for people without insurance, but also because people without insurance drive up costs for people with insurance, and from all the downstream effects. Whereas in the UK, you don't need to worry about it, because everyone pays into the kitty.

While UK residents pay more for their petrol, keep in mind that most of it is tax, which pays for the country's infrastructure: balanced transportation system, free health care, decent education. All the good things that UK residents enjoy.

When Americans pay more for their gasoline, most of that is profit that the average citizen will never see again. Whatever meager state and/or federal tax is added per gallon goes right back into giving tax breaks, tax loopholes, underpriced drilling rights, and colonial military protection to multinational energy corporations, while the average American overpays for "efficient", "free market" services that other industrialized countries provide for free or at dramatically lower costs, at equivalent quality. That link suggests that at least 33% of US healthcare costs are entirely "wasted" on the care itself, paying for systemic inefficiencies (which should never happen in a capitalist system) and feeding shareholder returns.

The British are very well-off, relatively speaking, despite seemingly paying more for their standard of living.

When everyday Americans "whine" about high gas and food prices, their whining is really misplaced. It should be directed at their elected officials not doing their jobs, not providing services that people need, routing tax dollars to corporations at the expense of the public. Nonetheless, speaking as a British citizen, Brits have no right to laugh at the average American trying to deal with the situation, until people in the UK have to live under the same conditions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


but when Americans get sick or hurt, there are other costs from lost wages, lost jobs,

That is identical for people in the UK (barring employment laws that seem comparable from what I know). I don't know of any system to suggest otherwise that you may have misinterpreted. Health insurance is a relatively cheap solution. It certainly costs less than the additional tax the UK pays on fuel alone (never mind the cost of Council taxes and high VAT and the like). Yes, uninsured elements cost a lot, but there is a private health care cost in the UK for non-essential procedures, too. It is not just blanket free health care - that's a fallacy perpetuated by the government. The reality is a little different.

Direct and indirect healthcare costs in the US are a massive drain on the economy, for people without insurance

Well, yes. But until your insurance premiums are a massive amount of your wages (comparable to the taxation we have in the UK for the NHS) the argument is moot. The people that choose not to have insurance cannot be included in the standard of living debate, as they choose to take the risk that comes with not having it. People in the UK pay for a system to sit there in case they are sick, Americans pay for a policy that may nor may not get used should they become ill.

While UK residents pay more for their petrol, keep in mind that most of it is tax, which pays for the country's infrastructure: balanced transportation system, free health care, decent education. All the good things that UK residents enjoy.

Education is not solely paid for by fuel taxes, nor is anything else. It certainly doesn't cover a large proportion of costs that the US population have to spend in addition after fuel costs. As a percentage of disposable income, the cost of fuel (and living) is much lower in the US. Shockingly so, in my experience. From my initial checking (holy crap the US med insurance sites are long winded) it seems that the cost of insurance is in the $100-200 range per month. This is equivalent to the average council tax payment, before even costs of fuel tax and VAT are even considered. It really isn't that much.

When Americans pay more for their gasoline, most of that is profit that the average citizen will never see again.

Where the money goes doesn't matter at all - it's still a significant proportion of your wages. The people that buy fuel in any quantity are almost by definition the ones that don't benefit from the transportation system (which is nothing like as competent as you seem to be implying other than in the centre of London). You should know this. I think the US system is generally better than the UK one, personally.

The British are very well-off, relatively speaking, despite seemingly paying more for their standard of living.

Relative to US people? I strongly disagree. Compared to a lot of other countries? Certainly. It's not seeming to pay more, though. It IS a higher percentage of your wages for essentials and general (to luxury) goods than in the US. Food is more expensive, rents and house prices are much higher. Fuel costs are much higher, as are general consumables, and consumer goods (from washing machines, to fridges to normal electrical goods and cars) are horrifically more expensive.

That link suggests that at least 33% of US healthcare costs are entirely "wasted" on the care itself, paying for systemic inefficiencies (which should never happen in a capitalist system)

The key word there is should. The NHS is notoriously unreliable, badly managed, slow and inefficient. A significant number of people use private health care in addition to the NHS because of its failings. There is no blanket health system that works for all and costs nothing outside tax and an awful lot of money is wasted in the UK system as well.

Brits have no right to laugh at the average American trying to deal with the situation, until people in the UK have to live under the same conditions.

I very much disagree. Although, admittedly, it is mainly whining about the cost of fuel as a percentage of disposable income that I find risible. I really don't find it at all expensive to live in the US or Canada - I came over on a direct conversion of my UK salary and move from a small town in England to the outskirts of Atlanta (I now live in Downtown Toronto) and I can't help but save money here on the same equivalent wage that I struggled to get by on in the UK.

When was the last time you were back for any length of time? It is so cheap to live here by comparison (even when adding equivalent health care into the mix) that I'd never consider moving back. I simply can't afford to.
posted by Brockles at 11:34 AM on June 30, 2008


But until your insurance premiums are a massive amount of your wages (comparable to the taxation we have in the UK for the NHS) the argument is moot.

It's worth pointing out that the United States spends much more on healthcare than the UK as a proportion of GDP: 16% as opposed to 9%, with arguably worse health outcomes. That money is coming from somewhere, so it's reasonable to suggest that when comparing UK and US incomes, the greater US expenditure on private healthcare is taken into account.
posted by alasdair at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2008


Its also worth noting that when inflation is taken into account, wages in America have been almost stagnant for all of this decade. When someone looks back on ten years of hard work and sees themselves and their families in relatively the same place as they were, but older and closer to death, that tends to cause anger.

With the dollar in free fall and America's need to import way too much of its products this ain't gonna change.
posted by Parallax.Error at 12:53 PM on June 30, 2008


"why should we have to live in a box?" [meaning an apartment], the last shreds of any sympathy I might otherwise have had vanish utterly.

You think raising kids in urban America is as good for them as raising them where they can run around, not get shot or run over, and not be surrounded by toxic spills? Most of the apartments around me don't even have a pretend yard, let alone someplace they can play.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:39 PM on June 30, 2008


I'm going to make a giant leap and guess that all you "insufferable bitch"es are single and childless, let alone children-less. Everytime my coworkers talk about how they have to schedule every second of their children's lives because they live in the city and it "just isn't safe these days" I just cringe.

-Their kids have no idea how to entertain themselves.
-If they have any physical coordination at all its due to structured dance classes or something- not climbing trees or fences.
-Most of them stay indoors ALL the time.
-I can't tell you how many teenage boys who are on Ritalin for "hyperactivity" or "ADD" get less than 20 minutes of exercise a day
-To a one they're weirdly consumerist, even if it's done in such a way to show how NOT consumerist they are. (e.g. the hipster hypocrisy).
-They're used to looking for permission for the least bit of non-supervised activity.

Ugh. But apparently raising kids in any other way is nothing more than resource-eating self-indulgence.

Talk about penny-wise and pound foolish.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:48 PM on June 30, 2008


Not all Americans failed to learn how a gas crisis could affect us. Some of us watched closely, paid attention, and invested in leather pants, shotguns, and Australian cattle dogs.

Now, you wanna get out of here? You talk to me.
posted by quin at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2008


For those who think oil companies are the root of all evil:

http://www.energy.ca.gov/gasoline/margins/index.html

This is the cost breakdown for a gallon of gasoline in CA. You can see that profits and marketing make up $0.12 or only 2.6% of the retail price of a gallon of gas. BUT all of the taxes add up to $0.70, which is 15.3%! At least in CA, the government benefits WAY MORE than the oil companies with higher gas prices.

(Of course I don't agree with the tax breaks given to oil companies, but I do believe the large profits reported for the oil companies is largely due to the fact that the market for gas is so huge.)
posted by kookaburra at 4:08 PM on June 30, 2008


kookaburra, you aren't taking into account the corporate welfare the oil companies get. Add that and the infrastructure costs for cars, and we've been very, very foolish, indeed, here in the states.
posted by QIbHom at 4:20 PM on June 30, 2008


Crude oil has many other purposes than making a gallon of gas. Plastics and fertilizer for example can still turn quite a profit even if the margin on gasoline is negligible. Also, saying the government benefits makes little sense. "The Government" is really just a middle man for spending the people's money, whats important is how "The Government" spends our money.

The American government looks like a sailor, recently diagnosed with cancer, on shore leave in Thailand with ten or twelve bottles of liquor and all of daddies money. Oh, and the brothel owners all sell oil.
posted by Parallax.Error at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2008


So... America is eating a lot of Pad Thai?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:23 PM on June 30, 2008


"Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah."
posted by Kloryne at 6:09 PM on June 30, 2008


So Americans can't complain about fuel costs, but Europeans can complain about Americans complaining? Is there some sort of chart that can work out for me what I am and am not allowed to complain about? Because I thought pretty much anyone was allowed to complain about anything. Of course, I suppose I'm complaining about people complaining about people's complaints, so I'll just shut up.

(But seriously --- wtf at the complain police)
posted by wildcrdj at 7:54 PM on June 30, 2008


Americans are allowed to complain only about other Americans. Anything else just shows that innate self-centered American attitude.
posted by oaf at 8:29 PM on June 30, 2008


Brockles I have also lived in the UK and the US and you are vastly (VASTLY) underestimating the amount of money healthcare costs the average US-ian. You are also over-estimating their access to insurance. Most people who don't have insurance, it's not because they "choose" not to, it's because they aren't approved for it or can't afford it. Most everyone I know in the US has had to borrow money or forgo health-care at some point, and that's the middle class people. I had knee surgery and it cost me 15%+ of my entire annual income, and that was an outpatient surgery with very good insurance! Monthly insurance payments are only $100-200 if you are very young and perfectly healthy and have a very high deductible. If you have children or any kind of chronic health issues they will be more like $400-1500/ month.

Anyway I digress: my real point is that looking at that map of spending per capita I see that Marin county is less than 2%. Maybe that's why those bastards blocked our train. But it does maybe explain a little bit of why it is so hard to get decent public transport in much of the US- local government. Most transportation is organized at the county or city level and they rarely if ever talk to each other so effectively transport stops at the county line, which is no good. It is a very decentralized country and the govt cannot just come in and say "well this makes sense so we should have a line that goes from here to here and connects with this other line". I wish because then I might be able to take a train to the airport instead of being ripped off by the shuttle company.
posted by fshgrl at 1:19 AM on July 1, 2008


(But seriously --- wtf at the complain police)

I think it went something like this: Some non-Americans said Americans shouldn't complain so much about high gas prices, considering the price of gasoline in other places. Some Americans answered with the claim that America is a special place where the drivers need to drive more than anyone else and so should be treated specially. They were answered with a STFU, America is not as special as you like to imagine, other people have similar conditions and still need to pay more than double what Americans pay for gas. That's a pretty reasonable exchange in Internet terms.

The problem with public transportation is that it's utterly horrible.

...and maybe that would change if more middle class folks had a stake in it.


That's exactly it. If you abandon entire transportation systems to the poor, riders of those systems are going to get what they pay for, and they can't pay much -- every seat is economy class, no frills, take it or walk.

If people with money had to take buses and trams and commuter trains because private cars couldn't go into town and most people couldn't afford the drive anyway, each system would develop multitiered service, just like airlines with economy and business and so on. You want a cushy ride to your downtown office job? You take the next red bus, you pay more, but you get a good seat, maybe a snack, wireless access, and almost zero chance of a bum puking in your lap. You just want to get to your low-paying bluecollar job on time? You take the next green bus, you might stand the whole way, but you don't pay much for it and it gets you there safe and on time. Maybe it's green upstairs, red downstairs, both on the same bus, or green tram cars and red trams cars linked together but offering different levels of service. In any case, every new bus load of former drivers added to the system would make the system faster because they would take that many cars out of the way. (And bicycle riders would have that many fewers cars to dodge.)
posted by pracowity at 2:38 AM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


other people have similar conditions

Except the part where our government expects Amtrak to turn a profit without any government help, and without ultimate control of its train movements.
posted by oaf at 3:54 AM on July 1, 2008


Except the part where our government expects Amtrak to turn a profit

Amtrak is a tiny part of the US transportation problem. The price of gasoline is a larger part but it still isn't everything. The main problem is that people arrange their lives so as to make cars necessary and walking impossible. They live east of somewhere, work west of somewhere, and drive their kids to schools north and south of somewhere. Many problems (hours wasted driving, high gas prices, traffic jams, multi-car purchases, multi-car insurance, multi-car maintenance, multi-car garages, downtown parking, pollution, paradise-paving, obesity, moronic drive-time radio shows, etc.) are reduced or eliminated when you live, work, and go to school somewhere. Use your shoes.
posted by pracowity at 2:31 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The main problem is that people arrange their lives so as to make cars necessary and walking impossible.

The main problem is that cars are necessary, because there aren't alternatives.

Use your shoes.

How incredibly short-sighted. What if I can't find a job within walking distance of where I live?
posted by oaf at 3:23 PM on July 2, 2008


Use your shoes.

Someday they're going to redesign cities around those things!

I hope.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:54 PM on July 2, 2008


What if I can't find a job within walking distance of where I live?

What if you can? Or at least a home within walking distance of a public transportation stop so you don't have to jump into a car for everything. Or what if you can find a place to live near a good school, or a good school near where you live? Or a good place to live that is within walking distance of shopping?

People don't even try. They move out into the middle of fucking nowhere, resigned to driving miles to get anywhere. That acquiescence encourages developers to continue building driving-only suburbs without shops or schools or workplaces, to put up work-only technology parks that are miles from anything decent, etc. You'll never have a choice if you don't look for it.

If you put "Reduced Driving" near the top of your list of requirements every time you move to a new home or new job, your family's life will become better.
posted by pracowity at 2:24 AM on July 4, 2008


What if you can?

What if that job moves or disappears?

Or at least a home within walking distance of a public transportation stop so you don't have to jump into a car for everything.

A relative of mine lives about two miles from where he works, and he still has to drive. Why? Even though his front door is approximately a two-minute walk from the nearest bus stop, the bus is frequently very late, and sometimes does not come at all. Showing up to work drenched with sweat is not an option.

This is in a city that's larger than, for example, Calgary.
posted by oaf at 10:18 AM on July 4, 2008


What if that job moves or disappears?

That isn't the norm, though. If only the people that had 'disappearing jobs' had to drive, that'd still be loads less people driving. The suggestion was that people try harder to plan around driving less, not that it is always possible, or possible all the time.

A relative of mine lives about two miles from where he works, and he still has to drive.

Two miles and he HAS to drive? Is he disabled? Any reason he can't cycle? Or walk? Two miles would be a 30-40 minute walk for most people, and I bet driving (with all the parking and the like and getting in and out of the car) takes him something like 10-15 minutes anyway, all told. Most people only consider the actual driving so don't see the benefit quite as easily.

I think a more persuasive example of 'has to drive' may be needed if you want to convince people that it is impossible to plan around not using a car constantly.
posted by Brockles at 10:56 AM on July 4, 2008


Any reason he can't cycle? Or walk?

As I said above, showing up to work drenched with sweat is not an option.

I'm also not 100% sure that there's sidewalk all the way.
posted by oaf at 11:58 AM on July 4, 2008


Drenched with sweat after walking two miles? That's crazy. He'd have to be frantically masturbating the whole way, surely. It's only two miles and only walking.

After the first week it'd be nothing to walk that sort of distance. Even if they lived somewhere hot, just driving the really hot days would be a massive improvement. Seeing one problem with one aspect of it, for a small part of teh year, and then dismissing the whole idea for 12 months as impossible is precisely the attitude that causes people to always drive 2 miles whenever they need to go anywhere because it's too much effort not to. That's the kind of attitude/habit that needs to be broken, and is hard to do.
posted by Brockles at 12:17 PM on July 4, 2008


Drenched with sweat after walking two miles? That's crazy.

Your profile says you're from Toronto. That may explain your lack of experience in this area.

I should note that this job generally requires some degree of dressing up (long sleeves) at all times of year.
posted by oaf at 1:25 PM on July 4, 2008


I have, however, lived in Atlanta in the past. During the summer it may not be possible, or at least not all of it, but there isn't anywhere in the US that is as hot in the summer as it is in the winter, is there? Even in Toronto, walking 2 miles is not the most pleasant for probably 4-5 months of the year (some from snow/cold, some from heat) but that still leaves 7 months where the saving could be made.

Like I say. Just because it isn't possible for some/half of the year, doesn't mean it should be dismissed for all of it. Even though showers may be out of the question, wearing a T-shirt to work and changing when you get there is hardly a massive inconvenience.

The problem is the mentality that decides "any inconvenience = the alternative is not possible". I can be victim to it every bit as much as anyone else, but to say "it's not possible" as opposed to "I can't be bothered to make the extra effort" is misleading and untrue. There is always an alternative, even if it's only for some of the time.
posted by Brockles at 1:44 PM on July 4, 2008


What if that job moves or disappears?

That's like objecting to getting married because you might get divorced. If you lose your job, you look for another, and if the only new job you can get somehow means you have to start driving again, you drive again until you can work something better out. You don't act like there is no way on earth you should ever even think about doing something as simple as leaving your car home some days because something, some day, just might force you to drive it again.

If you live two miles from work in the Northeast and there's nothing wrong with you, you should walk or bike at least half of the days of the year. If you're in such bad condition that walking or biking that far is cause for a noticeable sweat, you have even more reason to get that exercise. Two miles is a leisurely half-hour walk or leisurely ten-minute bike ride, either of which would be a quite reasonable commute that would cost you nothing (OK, maybe you would need to buy a cheap bike), make you feel better, make you look better, improve your sex life, lengthen your life, and, assuming you still bothered to have a car, lengthen the life of your car. If walking both ways is too hard on you, you could start by taking the bus to work (no sweat!) and walking home.

But I guess gasoline will have to rise to about USD15 per gallon before people stop claiming their cars are necessary for everything.
posted by pracowity at 2:51 PM on July 4, 2008


wearing a T-shirt to work and changing when you get there is hardly a massive inconvenience

Again, a shower and an entire change of clothes are necessary six months out of the year.

The problem is the mentality that decides "any inconvenience = the alternative is not possible".

The mentality that decides that people who say the alternative isn't possible need their heads checked is just as great a problem. Sometimes the buses just don't show up. No explanation, nothing posted at the stop or on the web site. Not wanting to take the bus to work because you've been burned on multiple occasions in the past indicates a problem with the bus system, not with the potential rider. (This is the same bus system that makes you take a 15-mile, one-transfer trip lasting over an hour for a three-mile journey I can drive in five or six minutes.)
posted by oaf at 3:12 PM on July 4, 2008


you could start by taking the bus to work

Were the buses not AWOL 10% of the time, I imagine he would on days he didn't have to leave the office.
posted by oaf at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2008


This is the same bus system that makes you take a 15-mile, one-transfer trip lasting over an hour for a three-mile journey I can drive in five or six minutes...

Or ride a bike in 15.

It looks like you made a bad choice when you moved to your current home. Far and away the biggest excuse people give for drivedrivedriving all the time is that the public transportation links near them suck, but it always turns out that they moved to the place with the intent of driving all the time and never seriously looked into the public transportation situation when they were choosing a place to live. With gas prices higher and always rising, now they will think about these things when they move.
posted by pracowity at 4:35 PM on July 4, 2008


Again, a shower and an entire change of clothes are necessary six months out of the year.

A complete change of clothes? Maybe if they didn't spend all their time in air conditioned cars they may stand a chance of getting acclimatised...

Anyway. It sounds like 6 months of the year might be out. But hey, I'll bet you $20 bucks they drive all year round, right?

Thought so.
posted by Brockles at 5:02 PM on July 4, 2008


I live where summers are 30°-40°C. Walking two miles takes 20-30 minutes. Cycling reduces it to 7-15 minutes. A cheap electric scooter could do it in 3-5 minutes.

It is not a problem to wear shorts and a t-shirt, and change into office clothes at work. Sweat is easily toweled-off. Sweat ≠ stink.

On the whole, there's nothing but bogus excuses for driving short distances.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:05 PM on July 4, 2008


It looks like you made a bad choice when you moved to your current home.

Me? You should read more carefully. There is nowhere on the planet that I could move to (without being an illegal immigrant) that has better transit. But yeah, I guess it is that relative's fault for being born there.

but it always turns out that they moved to the place with the intent of driving all the time and never seriously looked into the public transportation situation when they were choosing a place to live

You'd be wrong—it did look good, at least on paper. And then it turned out that the bus came fewer times than scheduled, not just late. With gas prices likely to continue creeping upward, this will probably change, as people with clout begin demanding that the transit authority do something useful.

A complete change of clothes? Maybe if they didn't spend all their time in air conditioned cars they may stand a chance of getting acclimatised...

Your time spent living in Atlanta was apparently limited to December, January, and February, because you haven't ever lived somewhere where your clothes adhere to you the moment you step outside.

Sweat is easily toweled-off.

You can still tell when someone's done that, and it doesn't exactly look professional to look like that.

On the whole, there's nothing but bogus excuses for driving short distances.

You apparently don't know the situation. Ever consider that you may not be able to evaluate this as well as someone who is?
posted by oaf at 10:20 PM on July 4, 2008


You ever consider that if driving two miles is breaking your pocketbook, it might be time to look for a better "professional" job? FFS.

And if it is not busting his balls, then why the hell have you been whinging on about it? Anger Management Gas Station much in your life?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:47 PM on July 4, 2008


if driving two miles is breaking your pocketbook

It's not, to my knowledge. He doesn't drive a big rig from home to work.

why the hell have you been whinging on about it

Because there are enough people who keep telling others "oh, if gas prices are straining your finances, you should take transit instead!" Most likely they do this because they haven't spent very much time in North America outside the handful of cities where transit is currently a viable alternative.

It's nice to wish that transit systems here worked, but high gas prices are probably the only thing in sight that's going to make the public demand that the dolts who are in charge of many of the transit authorities around the country actually begin doing their damn jobs.
posted by oaf at 8:27 AM on July 5, 2008


Your time spent living in Atlanta was apparently limited to December, January, and February, because you haven't ever lived somewhere where your clothes adhere to you the moment you step outside.

Actually I arrived in June. I lived there until the beginning of October, and walked a mile to work and back for the whole of the last month I was there. I also worked in a non-air conditioned building doing a pretty physical job and can confirm that, while it was bloody hot and humid (90-100deg inside), my clothes only got close to sticking to me if I was working outside for more than about 20 minutes - this was around 2pm, usually. The hottest part of the day, and not a time when anyone is usually walking to work and back. While I was often hot on the way back from work, it was not the walk that meant I needed a shower, by any means. It was just 'hot'.

So I strongly disagree with your assessment of either my experience or your assessment of the impossibility of it. As for acclimatisation, I'd just moved from England. I was about as declimatised (not sure that's a word) as you can be, and even I was cold in all the air conditioned shops in the area. I think that's part of the issue. People who live in hot parts of the US surround themselves with hugely efficient air conditioning systems and get used to being in AC at home, in the car, and at work. From what I saw, they're only ever outside to swap between them, and so of course it feels hot. The style of living and the high level of cheap air conditioning and ability to afford to run it flat out for most of the time has, from what I saw while I was there (and in other parts of the US) meant that people only actually experience the heat of the day for less than an hour in total. The rest of their lives are spent disconnected from it. I think this is why people don't get accustomed to it.
posted by Brockles at 9:25 AM on July 5, 2008


my clothes only got close to sticking to me if I was working outside for more than about 20 minutes

There's a reason it's not called Humidlanta. If you toss in the fact that nothing ever dries, it becomes a lot more miserable.
posted by oaf at 8:27 AM on July 7, 2008


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