Two summers ago, I made a step toward the dark side by trading in my bicycle for a shiny new SUV. I couldn’t have timed the switch more poorly. This was the first summer of record setting gas prices, when the pump price first climbed over $3.00 a gallon. Fair weather activists went to work that summer, sending out chain letters over email and myspace demanding a boycott of gasoline. Let’s boycott all gas stations for a day! Or better yet, let’s just boycott Exxon! That’ll show ’em!

After reading these, I (and anyone who had taken Econ 101) immediately were hit with terrible headaches. Why? These consumer gas schemes pandered more toward emotions than to any rational economics theory.

Now two years later, a similar situation is occurring. However, this headache isn’t being spread by zealous internet users. This fire is being fanned by two of our own presidential candidates. Their idea is not a boycott, but rather a “gas holiday” where the federal gas tax is erased for the summer driving months.

But wouldn’t lowering the gas price increase demand? And when demand increases, won’t the prices go back up? The short answer is Yes. Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes this as the true American energy policy: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Under such a scheme, consumers would see little change in gas prices this summer. Without taxes of course, our own Federal government’s revenue would shrink. And the real winners in the game would be….you guessed it….the big oil companies.

According to this article by Thomas Friedman of the NYT, “This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.”

Paul Krugman, another NYT columnist points out in a post that any attempt to quell gas prices for the summer driving season is too little, too late. The petro we’ll use this summer has already been extracted and refined. No matter what politicians will promise for the summer, there’s simply not much to be done.

Photo found at Huffington Post

My car gets 14 mpg on a good day and public transit isn’t an option for my commute. I’m sitting front and center in the cross hairs of high gas prices, and I would be ecstatic if there were a plan that could help me out. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a rationale consensus from our leaders. Of the three candidates, only Obama has voiced his disapproval of a gas holiday. Both McCain and Clinton have publicly favored this gas-tax holiday.

It’s time for our politicians to take a proactive and logical approach to our energy policy. All the research, rationale, and logic point to the same conclusion. It’s been close to 30 years since President Jimmy Carter proclaimed we would stop being dependent on foreign oil and that we would develop oil alternatives. Perhaps its time we began working toward this long-time goal.

I just caught an article from the Seattle Times titled “City of Seattle Won’t Buy Bottled Water“. The article states that Mayor Nickels approved the order because of the positive environmental impact, as well as the financial savings the city will experience. By cutting out bottled water expenses at various city events, Seattle could save close to $60k a year.

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Besides costing more than tap water, bottled water has an array of negative environmental effects. Bottling water uses oil, energy, and natural resources. America’s water bottling industry burned 1.5 million barrels of oil last year. In addition, most empty bottles find their way into landfills.

“This is a matter of leading by example,” Nickels said. “The people of Seattle own one of the best water supplies in the country, every bit as good as bottled water and available at a fraction of the price. When you add up the tremendous environmental costs of disposable plastic bottles clogging our landfills, the better choice is crystal clear.”

I recently stumbled upon a website gathering pledges from people to stop using bottled water. I can’t find the blog that first posted the pledge (sorry unknown blogger), but if your a progressive individual who wants to fall in love with his or her tap water, sign up for the pledge! There’s also a quick collection of facts, some of which I poached for this posting. Check it out!

The public’s somewhat negative perception of bottled water is nothing new. Over the past year or so, it was revealed that several bottled water companies use tap water in their products. Many restaurants made headlines several months ago by taking bottled water off their menus in favor of tap water.

In my opinion, Mayor Nickels is doing one helluva job maintaining our lead as an environmentally progressive city. Better watch out San Francisco.  You may be one step ahead of us for now, but give it time…