Toronto was all aflutter Monday when a travel company offered a promotion at a Eastern Ave. gas station where they sold gas for 50 cents a litre. The natives went crazy and it took about an hour for the cheap gas news to get around town. It started at 6 am, and by 7 am the cops had to be on scene to help keep traffic in-line, all because gas had been slashed in price in the name of promoting a company that I doubt anyone bothered to learn the name of. The name of the company wasn't even named in this CBC story.
Stories like this hit me a couple of ways. First of all, gasoline isn't the most expensive liquid you'll buy in a day. If you bought a litre of Starbucks coffee, it would come to $8, and God only knows how much your favourite perfume or aftershave would come to if you had to buy it by the litre.
Second of all, doesn't lining up and idling for hours to get gas defeat the purpose? Or isn't the purpose of buying cheap gas made moot if you waste gas, first of all, driving across town if you don't live in the area of the station charging cheap gas, and then waiting in line for upwards of two or three hours or more? It's the same philosophy of cross-border shopping: depending on where you live, aren't the savings of shopping in the states spent in the amount of gas it took to drive down there and back?
And finally, doesn't it strike anyone odd that our gas is cheaper than most industrialized countries? In England today, the average price per litre of gas, converted to Canadian dollars, is $2.25, which is a couple of pennies cheaper than the price of gas in France, and about 20 cents cheaper than what it is in Denmark and the Netherlands. Comparatively, the recent spike to $1.40 looks like a steal, but you won't catch anyone buying gas today counting their blessings.
Now I know that people write off gas as an expense if driving is an integral part of their business (like taxi drivers and delivery people), but some of the comments in a Guelph Mercury article today were insane.
But [12-seat passenger van owner Barrie Schippling] said he, along with many others, are powerless against the rising cost of gas. Even if the price went up to two dollars a litre, he said he’ll be forced to pay it if he wants to stay in business. [...]“It’s the same thing as eating,” he said. “I gotta have it.”
“There’s nothing you can do,” said the Guelph resident [Carol Hutchinson]. “You either pay it and shut up, or stay home.”
Really? If you can't pay to put gas in a car, then you become a shut-in? Heaven forfend people have to - I don't know - walk or take the bus! That kind of attitude blows my mind. I know people covet their cars to the point of clinical, but human beings literally walked across the face of the Earth after evolving in Africa. And don't even get me started on the idea of equating the "necessity" of gasoline with actual necessity of eating...
Does it also bother anyone that in our quest to get the very last drops of oil out of the Earth, we keep having to go to more and more dangerous means to get it? Does it bother anyone that the government rolled back environmental protections in last week's budget to make it easier for companies to drill, baby drill? All this in the name of making sure that gas is in quantity enough to stay cheap.
Now speculators and oil companies have their part in inflating things, but let's be honest, there's only two ways that people change their behaviour: price and scarcity. If you don't like the price of gas, don't pay it. Drive less, but avail yourself of other means of transportation. We keep saying we're addicted to oil, but then shrug our shoulders and get on with another drug buy, and when the pusher's got a sale on, so many of us throw caution to the wind to get our precious drug of choice, which ultimately proves to the pusher that no matter what they do to us, we'll keep coming back for another hit.
So decry the $1.40 gas all you want. The oil companies know you'll be back, you know you'll be back, even the poor guy you rail to at the gas counter knows you'll be back. It's inevitable. And the only person that can change those things, it seems, would rather be an addict than a crazy cat lady that never leaves the house. As if those are the only two options. Which, of course, they're not.