Wednesday, May 12, 2010

consumers hooked on oil? please.

I don't agree with Peter Maass' assessment that
"because when you kind of get down to it, American consumers do want to have their gasoline."
As a consumer, I'd love to spend less on gas. One practical example of how I could do this is to telecommute to work (not every job can do this, but some can), but most corporations don't believe this is an option. How about WebEx meetings instead of business travel? Many don't believe this is as good as face time and are willing to pay for air travel. There are many other alternatives I could list that either require unacceptable tradeoffs or drastically reduced standards of living or drastically higher expenses to support alternative energy. The infrastructure for what he wants simply doesn't exist yet.

So what are consumers going to do? Of course they're going to want their gasoline because there is no way to make a living without it. Give us an alternative before accusing us of inaction! Personally, I think rising gas prices will ultimately motivate alternative energy. As alternative energy becomes cheaper than oil, consumers will be happy to switch, as will the corporations and markets that connect them.

But Maass' premise is insulting. He thinks we can afford it and we're just being petulant. Instead, he should be focusing his energy on the existing economic system that was built on oil. Of course we want to get off oil dependency as soon as possible and move towards sustainable energy, but Maass wants the consumer to single-handedly bear the cost of switching without any help from the structure of corporations or governments.

Most of us can't afford that and Maass is forgetting where the consumer's power to spend money comes from in the first place: the ability to earn money and spend responsibly within that structure, not apart from it.

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