What to do about gas prices?



Americans United for Change has launched a campaign to Free Our Oil! While an interesting response to the Republican focus on lying to support drilling, I challenged this campaign, stating that this effort supports a quite dangerous framing of the problems and solutions.

If we make this just about gas prices, we are caught into a very dangerous framing. “Lowering” gas prices gets people thinking back to cheaper energy unit costs days. We need people, the nation thinking about enery as a system, as a “cost to own” rather than “cost to buy”. We (the nation) should foster upfront investment (help it) that will lower total “cost to own” by reducing wasteful use of polluting energy. While difficult in a robocall, every single message (I would argue) should avoid getting captured in messaging that fosters thinking that we can go back to days of cheaper gasoline. Over the long term (and likely short term), it isn’t going to happen.

In response, I was asked the following question:

Say, for example, you were on TV today as a representative of the Democratic Party. The interviewer asks, “A, what is the Democratic Party doing in Congress to help lower oil/gas costs for Americans who are hurting?” What’s your answer?

The GOP has an answer – gas tax holiday and drilling offshore. You and I know that these are two options that won’t do anything significant in the short-term, and we they do nothing to change the culture of oil that we live in. However, they are ideas and Americans want to hear ideas, be them good or bad.

What can the Dems do right now to bring down costs, without sacrificing their long-term message of changing the way we think about oil. OR, given our foreign policy and the world as it is today. is $4/5/6/gallon just the new reality and we need to suck it up?

For my off-the-top of the head (basically unedited) response, follow me after the fold.

I think that I know what I would want to be able to say. This does not, however, work with the muddled confusion of the Ds in the House / Senate / and elsewhere.

What might I want to say?

The Democratic Party is looking for solution paths that will help people in the near term while setting the nation on a path for a prosperous and climate friendly future.

About today’s gasoline prices, the Democratic Party will:

  • Fight to open up the SPR, to the tune of between 150,00 to 300,000 barrels per day, to add oil into the global market and reduce the pressure on supply. At 200,000 barrels / day, this would provide $25+ million/day in revenue.
  • Use 100% of those revenues to support new initiatives (both the near and long-term)
  • Energy Efficiency and renewable energy programs in homes and buildings, specifically additional targeting of places that use home heating oil to relieve pressure on oil supplies in winter months.

  • Fight for programs to foster greater fuel efficiency in America’s cars & trucks
  • Public education campaign re fuel efficiency and driving habits. Ability to gain up to 30% (roughly equivalent of 2.5 million negagallons) in automobile fuel efficiency.
  • Tax credit/support to have 100% of America’s gas stations provide free air pressure (underpressured tires cost about 3.5% lost of gasoline across America’s car fleet)
  • Tax credits toward purchase of systems proven to help improve fuel efficiency for both commercial users and individuals. These include things such as auxiliary power units, enabling trucks to be shut down when stop rather than using the engine to cool refrigerated units, to mileage per gallon feedback systems that plug into existing (post 1996) cars to help improve mileage through real-time information about gasoline usage.
  • Incentive taxi cab fleet purchase of hybrid cars

  • Initiatives to help reduce driving requirements and ease driving, both of which will reduce gasoline use.
  • Support to compressed, flexible, and telecommuting work schedules. A worker on a 9/80 drives to the job 10% less. Flexible scheduling enables people to travel outside rush hours, saving time and gasoline. A telecommuter might reduce work related driving by 100%. As a start, 100% of Democratic Party offices on Capital Hill are going to strive to reduce their office’s daily commuting footprint by 10%, with an additional 10% on flexible hours putting their travel outside traditional rush hour periods.
  • Resources for improving traffic management throughout America to help reduce fuel demands.
  • About the mid-long/term

  • Electrification
  • Support electrification of America’s rail system. This would, before 2020, eliminate 250,000 barrels of oil used by trains and provide capacity for the rail system to carry more cargo — potential saving millions of barrels per day. Note that drilling the outer continental shelf might add 250,000 barrels of day in supply by 2030, a decade later than rail’s impact.
  • Support movement of American’s trucks, buses, cars off gasoline
  • $50 million / year for Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Buses, starting immediately
  • Federal fleet vehicle purchases to be minimum 5% PHEV/EV starting in 2010, with a 5% increase each year that follows.
  • Tax credits for individuals and business for purchase of EVs and PHEVs. The tax credit increases as the ‘all electric’ driving distance increases.
  • Funding of a Smart Grid, with V2G (vehicle to grid) research and development, which will enable this transportation electricity to come from the grid more efficiently and enable greater penetration of renewable power.
  • A mandate that all vehicles with liquid fuel be either GEM flex-fuel (100% of all gasoline like fuels (ethanol, methanol, gasoline) can be used) or diesel flex fuel (from 0% to 100% biodiesel).
  • Mandate that 100% of vehicles (of all types) provide real time and longer term feedback to driver as to gallons per mile / fuel efficiency.
  • Etc … And, so on …

    It is time to be Energy Smart.

    To have plans that help address quite real near-term challenges of high gasoline prices while setting a path to real solutions for tomorrow. The Democratic Party is working for real solutions. We hope that you will work with us to achieve them.

    Okay, a new slogan for the “Free the Oil” campaign:

    So, a Question: What do you think?

    Free the Oil and help solve tomorrow’s problems today!


    5 responses to “What to do about gas prices?

    1. Very good article. Now is time to put this article before all the presidential candidates for study and public response.

    2. Professor West

      All right, enough is enough, you’re all whining like a bunch of small children over these criminally orchestrated gas prices. I said it a few months ago that gas prices would rise to five dollars a gallon before my 53rd birthday. In addition, according to my calculations it’s just .85 cents away from being five dollars a gallon now. Diesel fuel is already way over four dollars a gallon, and the angry truckers are bitching a blue streak too. As a self claiming poor scientist, I too feel the pain at the pump. However, perhaps these high fuel prices are a godsend telling us all that it’s now the right time to change to something far better. There is no need to dramatically change anything on that nice big fat luxury car or that wonderful gas guzzling SUV either That internal combustion according to my own calculations is not going anywhere anytime soon. That’s right it’s here to stay for many more years to come. We simply need to do a little reverse engineering, while gas
      prices remain so astronomically high. The overall key for solving that high price fuel dilemma requires no rocket science at all; we simply apply a little logic to the equation.

      In conclusion, wind turbines solar panels and other forms of so-called free energy are not the answer. Fusion could arrest the problem temporarily; however, that form of energy is just too unpredictable. No as gas, prices continue to skyrocket; now is the time to introduce a new form of power. Call it the next generation in the internal combustion engine process if you will, however once the highly advanced application is completed and ready for testing, I say woe too big bad oil.
      Professor West

    3. One thing that can’t be overlooked is the problem that high fossil fuel prices, specifically natural gas, causes for electricity generation. The costs in Texas have risen 50% this year. In the long run, alternate generation methods like wind power will help this problem but for now, many people are hurting severely every time they get their monthly electricity bill. Not good!

    4. Yes I think it is a plot by the gas companies to make us think things are better when they really are not. So that we do not switch to hybrids or alternative fuels.

    5. You are so right, it will be hard to convince when people do not have money, but oil is a depletable resource, not an efficient way to fuel our cars. We need something that is a never ending resource.

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