Gallons and guzzlers

With gas prices approaching $3 a gallon, driving anywhere will give one wallet pains.

Everyone cringes when filling their cars these days. A small coupe that used to cost $17 to fill now takes more than $30 of gas. While consumers in Europe have been paying exorbitant “petrol” prices for years, Americans’ pocketbooks are being maimed at the pump.

Unfortunately the Bush administration’s solution is, basically, to promote hydrogen fuel cells. These cells no doubt will be a viable option in the future, but not for several decades. Cars running on these cells would use no gasoline and emit only water, making them essentially pollution-free to drive. But in the meantime President George W. Bush’s promise to “deal firmly” with price gouging just doesn’t make the minimum octane rating.

Hybrid vehicles that run on a combination of electricity and gasoline are the most efficient vehicles available to the public. Unfortunately this technology has yet to produce the energy needed to power some of today’s worst offenders: SUVs, giant pickup trucks and the bane of environmentalists everywhere – Hummers; the Army rip-offs that get less than 10 miles per gallon make greenies want to tar and feather their drivers. But such is the case in a free market: Clearly there is a demand. Now the supply must shift to Earth-friendly vehicles; a more strict fuel-efficiency standard for the entire automobile industry is desperately needed. Bush needs to push for initiatives to create the high-powered ego-mobiles Americans crave in hybrid form.

In addition the administration does nothing to promote conservation. And why should it? Bush, a former oilman himself, would practically be committing blasphemy by encouraging U.S. citizens to use less oil in their daily lives. It’s simple economics: Cut the demand and the prices will go down. And all those breaks for oil companies haven’t been helping, either.

As students look forward to summer jobs and road trips, this year they must consider more than ever the cost of traveling by car. Hopefully new graduates will choose to buy an efficient hybrid vehicle. But if that isn’t an affordable option, they need some kind of relief – and not in the form of a futuristic pipe dream that might be a reality in 20 years.