Americans tend to complain about the rising cost of gasoline and, with the Great Recession fading at last (at least statistically), Republicans are looking to capitalize on gas prices as a campaign issue, blaming the Obama administration for alleged pain at the pump.
But how much impact do higher gas prices really have on our lives? Not much, apparently.
When University of Michigan economist Lutz Kilian and consultant Paul Edelstein of IHS Global Insight looked at Americans’ personal spending habits during periods of high energy prices, they found rising gasoline prices had “no significant effect on the consumption of movies, bowling and billiard[s], or casino gambling and only insignificant declines for spending on recreational camps, sightseeing, spectator sports and spectator amusements.” Some people also reported buying fewer lottery tickets. (Source: The Economist, April 2, 2012)
Nor has the rising cost of gasoline deterred us from buying new cars. This March, Chrysler sold more cars and small trucks than in any month since March 2008, and Nissan had its best month yet. Sales were up by 12 percent compared to a year ago at General Motors and up 5 percent at Ford. (Source: The Economist, April 5, 2012)
So, although we whine loudly, blaming whoever we like to blame for everything anyway, our economic behavior indicates remarkable indifference to gasoline prices.
In Europe, where taxes consistently keep gas prices well above $5 a gallon, citizens tend to use public transportation and live near the centers of towns, filling their streets with bicycles, mopeds and tiny cars.
But we Americans barely exert the minimum effort one would expect. Our enthusiasm for car pooling, enhancing public transportation, bicycling, walking and driving fuel-efficient vehicles remains relatively low. Moaning all-the-while, the average American even spends more gas money on social and recreational trips (about $13 a week, on average) than on commuting to and from work (around $8). (Source: The Economist, April 2, 2012)
If higher gas prices are actually damaging the quality of our lives, we should congratulate ourselves for an admirable job of hiding it.
On behalf of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents plastic bag manufacturers, recyclers and tens of thousands of hardworking Americans in our field, I would like to respond to Alyssa Reindel’s letter of April 3, “Alternatives to plastic grocery bags.”
While the residents of Basalt and Carbondale have spoken through their respective referendum votes, it is important that the record be corrected on points made in the media.
American-made plastic bags are made from natural gas, not oil. Additionally, they do not contain Bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalates. BPA makes plastic hard, and is not a substance used in plastic bag manufacturing. Moreover, phthalates make plastic so soft, it could never be used in a plastic grocery bag, as the bag would not be strong enough to hold anything.
Plastic bags do not contain BPA and phthalates. There are a lot of myths out there about plastic bags, but it’s important to stick to the facts in this debate.
Mark Daniels, chair
American Progressive Bag Alliance
At a recent news conference, President Obama said, “I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
He was referencing the Supreme’s review of Obamacare’s constitutionality. What could he be thinking? That is exactly what the court is designed to do – determine if a law passed by Congress passes the constitutional test. Obama should know better. After all, he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago.
Investors Business Daily opined, “Someone will have to remind Obama the Supreme Court is a co-equal branch of government, part of a system of checks and balances designed to rein in precisely the kind of runaway government exhibited by his administration.”
In fact, the court struck down 53 laws between 1981 and 2005 alone.
Another fact is this law, which was never read by most of those who voted for it, and which Nancy Pelosi said had to be passed so we could find out what is in it, passed the House by a vote of 219-212, a seven-vote margin. That’s not what I would call a strong majority. Interestingly 34 Democrats voted against it.
The margin a bill passes by is not a factor when the court reviews it. It is just not a part of the equation. If it were, then why doesn’t Obama support the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed by a margin of 275 in the House and 71 in the Senate?
So why did Obama say that? Could it be an attempt to intimidate the court? Could it be that even though he taught constitutional law, he doesn’t believe in it? Or is it just another lie?
Recall Obama’s lecturing the Supremes in his 2010 State of the Union address about a decision they made concerning the First Amendment he did not agree with. Remember Justice Alito’s reply, “Not true.”
“The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it.”
– H.L. Mencken
I applaud the citizens of Carbondale for upholding the plastic bag ban. It’s a small step toward training us all to reduce our consumption of nonrenewable resources.
But at the risk of being a buzz-kill, I would like to put plastic bag use in perspective. I’ve done a few back-of-the-envelope calculations, using one plastic grocery bag as the standard unit of energy consumption, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
Idling a typical car for 10 minutes uses the energy embodied in 13 plastic bags. Every mile you drive a 30-mpg car is like blowing 17 plastic bags out the tailpipe. If you drive a 15-mpg truck, make that 33 bags. Flying 1,000 miles in a commercial jet, you’re using the equivalent of 7,500 bags.
Like to leave the porch light on all night? That’s 6.5 bags a night, or nearly 2,400 bags a year. If you’ve switched to compact fluorescent bulbs, good for you, but you’ll still be using more than 500 plastic bags’ worth of energy annually to keep the light on.
If you leave your desktop computer on when you leave work at the end of the day – and hey, why not, since the company’s paying the electric bill? – then you’re wasting the equivalent of 15 to 50 plastic bags, depending on the model. Leave your computer on all weekend and it’s 60 to 200 bags.
Each time you leave the hot water running at the sink for two minutes, you’ve sent 9 bags down the drain. If your water heater is set to 140 degrees instead of 120, you’re burning 10 extra bags a day.
I think it might be useful to visualize our greenhouse gas emissions as plastic bags, following us around like farts made visible. Perhaps this will help us focus on ways we can make the most difference.
It’s great to see the Bureau of Land Management taking a cautious approach to leasing public lands for oil shale work. There are many, many questions still surrounding this technology and what the impacts of full commercial development might be.
But the most important question of all is one that we the people must ask ourselves and the agencies we charge to protect our biosphere. That is whether the change to nonpetroleum based energy is going to be any easier 25, 50 or 100 years in the future when the last oil shale is processed and the last well runs dry.
We know that these are finite resources, with significant environmental impacts. Shouldn’t research and development dollars be focused on new technologies that address that undeniable fact? The BLM is by definition the agency that should be making this point in their planning processes. It’s up to us to see that they do it.
I write in response to Hal Sundin’s column of April 5.
The poverty rate as established by the U.S. government is $22,350 for a family of four. This does not include the free food stamps, the free medical care, the assisted housing and the unearned tax rebates they receive.
As a matter of fact, the way the government collects information, I know a number of businessmen who have lost money in the past three years who fall within the poverty rate because of their lack of income, even though they may have a net worth that exceeds Mr. Sundin’s.
In addition to the above benefits, those in the poverty category enjoy free education. I have friends in China who asked me to help them pay for schooling for their boy, as a good education there isn’t free.
As for the rich who are getting richer, it is a good thing. This category of 5 to 10 percent pay 60 percent of what it costs for the impoverished to receive the free benefits they receive, in addition to hiring thousands upon thousands who are not in the impoverished category because of their employer.
Forty percent of Americans pay no income tax and yet our government spends at a rate that surpasses income to the tune of $1.5 trillion. Mr. Sundin may have another answer, but I thank God that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the leadership of Exxon, Walmart, Caterpillar, General Electric, Coca Cola, etc., have become rich while making money for their stockholders, and in the process have provided weekly paychecks to millions.
The alternative is to make everybody equally poor, with no incentive to excel except to become part of the elite in these equally poor societies who live the rich life, which causes Mr. Sundin to wring his hands. Please Mr. Sundin, find a better society or country and then work, other than by tongue-clucking, to see our society become the same.
Fort Worth, Texas
Readers enjoy Krauthammer’s column
We wish to express our appreciation for the inclusion of the opinion column by Charles Krauthammer in the Post Independent. He has an unusual and perceptive view of the political scene.
Oscar McCollum and Lois Ann McCollum
The irony of the anti-abortion crowd’s focus on the fetus is lack of concern for a child’s quality of life once the birth certificate is issued. The function of the fetus faction seems to be aimed at protecting a fetus, eggs and sperm from perceived invasions, such as reproductive choice.
Why do so many anti-abortion advocates have a difficult time supporting equal rights for gays, lesbians, transgenders, minorities, immigrants, people with disabilities, and those who are economically challenged? God help a fetus, if it’s not Anglo, wealthy, straight and Christian. Clearly, the fetus faction’s role is to hand a baby a birth certificate, and let the prevailing culture judge the child’s human value in our slanted societal pecking order.
The fetus faction spends billions to support legislators who believe fetus rights take precedent over a mother’s right to life. Most of these legislators also believe corporations are people, too.
There is something diabolical and psychopathic about creating an anti-abortion lobbying PAC, disguised as a women’s health organization for cancer research. Nothing says pro-life like a “pink ribbon” corporation raising millions of dollars to elect religious zealots under an anti-abortion, “corporations are people too,” women-hating legislative agenda. “The Handmaid’s Tale” wasn’t intended to be an instruction manual.
When the fetus faction feels moral justification for obstructing and bombing Planned Parenthood facilities, or supporting individual gun rights to kill others who don’t agree with their agenda, something is lost in that pro-life message.
What’s next? Coupling with the NRA under a campaign called, “Save a Life. Arm a Fetus!” When faction-backed legislators vote to remove and overturn legislation that protects the health, safety and reproductive choices of women, the message is hypocritical and hateful.
Supporting the unborn also means creating a little heaven on Earth with quality-of-life protections such as social justice under equality, economic stability, education, affordable health care access, senior care, and a clean healthy environment for the living from womb to tomb. A true pro-life agenda is a compassionate practice, and shouldn’t be confused with a political soundbite.
The no-kill animal shelters John Lepkowski suggests as a model for Planned Parenthood in his April 4 letter take on a great deal of responsibility when they bring in their animals. They feed and house all of these animals until they find homes.
Might I suggest this tactic for all those wishing and praying hard to change the ability of women to obtain an abortion?
Provide food and shelter for pregnant women who find themselves in a position for which they feel totally unprepared. Do so without judgment and proselytizing, with “do unto others” good will, including aid to those from different social-economic strata. This would accomplish more to reduce the numbers at Planned Parenthood than sign-waving and accusations.
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