The Cost of Gas and the Price of the Supreme Court

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

On One Hand…

Drivers in the United States are now paying almost as much for gasoline as Europeans have been paying for years (take Germany for example). That’s right, fellow Americans, we’ve been on a Non-renewable Resource Holiday since the day we were born. The party is ending for those living on a limited budget. Right now, depending on where you live and the blend you use, gasoline is about $5 a gallon. If fuel continues to increase in cost—say upwards of $8-$10 per gallon, the following will happen. Many of us will…

  • regret buying jumbo cars and trucks that scare the bejeebers out of pedestrians and bikers, all the while guzzling fuel like water (which we are also going to run short on)
  • plan our errands better—bundling five tasks into one trip instead of parsing out a trip per errand
  • discover public transportation, which, if it actually gets used, will blossom into what it should have always been
  • undertake more self-propulsion (walking, running, biking)
  • buy e-bikes; whatever else they are, they are much less polluting and threatening than cars and trucks

This is a trajectory that I’d bet on. And I’d bet that the real hardship will be on low-income families and individuals who survive by driving. At the other end of the spectrum, toward the wealthy, the costs are negligible. Perhaps inflation is worth complaining about, but is does not change driving habits. In American culture, driving excessively may already be a status symbol, but soon it may be the surest sign of opulence.

On the Other Hand…

The US Supreme Court just handed down a decision that will hamper clean air and accelerate climate disaster.[1] Here’s a thumbnail of what happened: in 2015, the EPA, through its Clean Power Act, set standards for power plants that involved three building blocks. The first building block, which was consistent with the older Clean Air Act, involved cleaning up the way coal burns. The second and third blocks required replacing coal with, first, natural gas, and, ultimately, non-polluting sources such as solar and wind.

On June 30, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was not empowered to set these standards without specific authorization from Congress. In other words, federal agencies cannot initiate standards they consider necessary. They must depend on Congress to do so.

This might be good Constitutional law at work. Justice Kagan doesn’t think so: “Today, the Court strips the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.'”

Good or bad Constitutional law, I’m left wondering what good a body of constitutional law will be if we kill the body politic it was designed to serve.

The Individual or the State?

Raised by a Jeffersonian, I used to believe that the government that governs least, governs best. In another society that might be, but the immense power of corporate greed in this country overwhelms the checks and balances written into the constitution. Lobbyists often wield more influence than voters. The tail truly is wagging the dog.

Perhaps if individuals started on neutral ground, the majority would make prudent lifestyle decisions that promoted healthy, green living. But from the cradle to the grave (yes, I love that phrase), we are bombarded with an infrastructure, legislation, marketing, and advertising that promote the unhealthy use of cars and trucks.

The change will not happen if left to individuals because, by and large, individuals are programmed by corporations. And for that reason, I’m left with only two hopes: (1) the harsher one that gas will go up to an even $10/gal; yes even I will whine at times, but, when I can hear nature instead of the constant drone of tires on the highways, I’ll smile; (2) federal-level imposition of standards and the funding of a green infrastructure, changes that throw the corporations off balance, making the greediest and most wasteful ones wince as the socially-conscious companies take the lead. Will this ever happen? Not today, not this year, not this decade.

Today’s Bollard

Bollards stop cars, sometimes brutally, offering a kind of payback moment to those who frequently feel threatened by drivers. On the topic of the growing global dependence on automobiles, a bollard is one of the few things that make me smile.

This video has an optional soundtrack (in case you want to mute it):



[1] For a detailed look, see West Virginia v. EPA in Wikipedia. The article includes a link to the Supreme Court decision itself, always a pleasure to read (no joke).

Persons Rescuing a Car

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

A Happy Post?

Definitely this will be a short post, and happy. Yes, the world’s dependence on oil continues to fund Putin’s war and its ruthless destruction of life and property. And, yes, several groups I follow on Twitter still post subtle hints vehemently, such as “Cars Destroy Cities.” There’s an entire culture out there devoted to reclaiming the earth. But this will be a happy post (no sound track).

Today is no more than a couple of nice videos, one of people rescuing a car (and the driver), and one that depicts true happiness on a bollard.

People to the Rescue

This is the kind of situation that might unite pedestrians, bikers, and drivers, at least while the rescue is happening. It’s a lovely sight.

Today’s Bollard

Bollards stop cars, sometimes brutally, offering a kind of payback moment to those who frequently feel threatened by drivers. But today’s bollard is pure entertainment and athleticism.

Zelensky: Hero, Biker

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

“I need ammunition, not a ride”
Volodymyr Zelensky

The Hero

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is probably not riding a bike today. He’s currently dodging Russian tanks. He leads with astonishing courage and composure.
Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait

When it became clear that 100,000 Russian troops were gathering on the border of Ukraine, the drums of war began to beat in the West.

Zelensky, however, didn’t beat them. Instead, on February 13, 2022, Zelensky urged President Biden to visit Kyiv in order to send a “powerful signal” that will help stabilize “the situation.”[1] That and similar requests were denied or ignored. Nevertheless, to avoid giving Russia a pretense for invading, Zelensky consistently de-escalated the tension, sought to communicate with Putin, and reached out for international support.

Once the invasion was imminent and in progress, Zelensky’s tone changed accordingly.[2]

  • “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces.”
  • “Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don’t see anyone. Who is ready to give Ukraine a guarantee of NATO membership? Everyone is afraid.”
  • “Our military, our national guard, our national police, our territory defense, special service, nationals of Ukraine, please carry on. We will win.”

Instead of leaving Kyiv, he has remained, broadcasting to several audiences: his people, the Russian people, and governing bodies. Recently, he addressed the EU Parliament and rightly received a standing ovation until he left the live stream.[3]

So rare a leader.

Of course the branches of the government and military are of the same material. Even more striking are the citizens who insist on resisting the invasion. Equally striking are non-citizens from other countries entering Ukraine help fight.

The instruments of warfare are lopsided, as we all know, but that doesn’t stop the Ukrainians. Behold the pedestrian stopping a tank:

If in January someone had told me that Ukrainian women would be making and throwing Molotov cocktails, that several men would be stepping in front of tanks to slow them down, that a president was among the most coherent and fearless…I would have thought it a fiction.

May most of the Ukrainians survive and rebuild their country.

Zelensky the Biker

He did ride when he was pretending to be president; that is, when he starred in Servant of the People:

If cars and trucks are a problem to our environment, tanks fall at one end of the spectrum and bikes at the other.

The Bike and the War

The bike and the war are related the way, say, eating well and sickness are related. Just as eating is not a sufficient cause to stop all illness, so, of course, a lack of dependence on oil will not stop all wars. But a lack of dependence would allow more democratic countries to bow down less frequently to oil-rich countries.[4]

If the West, and especially America, had for the past five decades learned to depend upon bicycling, walking, and public transportation—instead of massive fossil fuel consumption—the invasion of Ukraine would likely be different. Russia would not have made nearly so much money selling crude oil to us, having far less money for tanks and other instruments of war. In 2021 alone, Russia sold about $110,000,000,000 USD to the US.[5] That’s $110 billion, while each tank costs around $4 million.

I am not proposing self-propulsion as means of world peace. I am pointing out that if one looks at both the scale of Russia’s armament and the amount of crude oil sold to the US (not to mention European countries), one cannot avoid seeing two problems whose interests and effects overlap.

In his book, Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped (2014), Garry Kasparov predicted all of this:

The naïve idea was that the free world would use economic and social ties to gradually liberalize authoritarian states. In practice, the authoritarian states have abused this access and economic interdependency to spread their corruption and fuel repression at home.

He also wrote that “We must fight with the vast resources of the free world, beginning with moral values and economic incentives and with military action only as a last resort.” He was ignored, and now the world is addressing the problem in reverse order: military action, economic incentives, and, one would hope, moral values.[6]

Obviously bikes would make a difference. Of course, a few of us leaving our cars at home will not be felt on anything more than a municipal scale. It would take many, nay, a majority to affect national economies.

There are two ways to obtain a majority: (1) massive changes in infrastructure, policy and legislation through governmental power and (2) voluntary participation (which would also lead to a better infrastructure).

Concerning the first, many Americans do not want government involvement. In Hamlet’s words, “examples gross as earth exhort” us.

As for the second, until recently, I had despaired of voluntary participation on a large scale. But if things get bad enough—climate change, gasoline prices, and health problems—and if we are inspired after the fashion of the Ukrainian citizens…well, some day the tide may turn.

Is there anything else I need say in favor of a culture of self-propulsion and public transportation? Isn’t it all obvious? And yet it’s so easy to ignore the far-reaching consequences of ignoring the obvious. Today I was planning to get into my car to run an errand. But these reminders have cured my amnesia…for the moment. It’s a good day for a bike ride.

Today’s Bollard

Bollards stop cars, and this one from who-knows-where stopped a tank. Go bikes, go pedestrians, go Zelenski, go Ukraine!ukraine flag



[1] From the New York Times, last visited 3/3/22, Ukraine’s President Tries to Avert Panic as Pressure Mounts, Feb. 13, 2022.

[2] These quotes taken from MEA Worldwide, last visited 3/3/22, Top Volodymyr Zelenskyy quotes: How Ukrainian president inspired the world with his bravery, Feb. 26, 2022.

[3] For the eight-minute speech, see YouTube, last visited 3/3/22, Zelensky receives standing ovation after speech to European Parliament, March 1, 2022.

[4] As Garry Kasparov writes: “Meanwhile, Europe draws 80 percent of Russia’s energy exports, so who has the greater leverage in this relationship? And yet during the Ukraine crisis we have heard it repeated constantly that Europe cannot act against Russia because of energy dependency! Eight months after Putin annexed Crimea and three and a half months after evidence mounted that Russian forces had shot down a commercial airliner over Ukraine, Europe was still ‘considering’ looking at ways to substitute Russian gas.” Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped (2014/15), by Garry Kasparov, PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

[5] From the site, Statistica, last accessed 3/2/22, Export value of crude oil from Russia from 2000 to 2021.

[6] Both quotes are from the introduction of Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped (2014/15), by Garry Kasparov, PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

Running While Black

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

This post initially was entitled “Person vs. Two Pickups, a Pistol and a Rifle,” until I saw a Wikipedia page dedicated to “Running while black.” One of its footnotes cites an article, Running while Black: Why we are not all in this together, in which the author, Dewayne R. Stallworth, states something that must haunt many black runners:

As an educated black man who enjoys taking contemplative runs in my neighborhood, I must confess that I leave my home with the thought that I may not return (and this is before Arbery’s killing). I think about my attire — would this shirt cause someone to think I am a burglar.

Jogging as a black person in the US is a thing. For a person of any race, urban running brings with it risks of breathing bad air, a possible sprained ankle, and collision with a car.[1] But for a black person, there’s the added risk of being beaten or killed.

Driving in the US is also a thing. It imposes new risks to the environment, pedestrians, bikers, and animals. When the two meet—running as black and driving as a racist—something terrible occurs. Bad as racism in itself is, the added power of a pickup truck, a pistol, and a rifle make the situation all the worse. Cars and trucks make it extremely easy to track and kill—with almost no effort at all.[2]
Continue reading “Running While Black”

“Unsafe at Any Speed”—55th Anniversary

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

In 1965, Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed, the book that tackled the unsafe practices of the auto industry and launched the modern consumer protection movement. This is a short post that recognizes the merits of Nader’s efforts.

Ralph Nader, 1975

Continue reading ““Unsafe at Any Speed”—55th Anniversary”