Call it Rathodics, Rathodology, Rathod-gineering, or Rathodistry; chances are high that you will find lot of useless things on this blog. Nevertheless, I thank you for visiting my blogsite, and hope you spend sometime reading the blogs and commenting on them. Further, you can visit me at http://www.unm.edu/~srathod

Friday, September 02, 2005

Who's to blame for the rising gas prices?

Consider the following numbers taken from AnthonyDowns.com.

The total vehicle population just about doubled from 1980 to 2000, from 380 million to 752 million, a CAGR of 3.47%. From 1960 to 1980, the CAGR was 6.39%. The human population rose at a CAGR of 1.56% from 1980 to 2000, with a total gain of 1.623 billion, vs. the vehicle increase of 372 million... In the world as a whole, the number of vehicles per 1,000 persons has risen from 36 in 1960 to 123 in 2000. The U.S. number is 778. If the world had one-half the ratio of the U.S., the total number of vehicles would be 2.4 billion instead of 752 million. It will be moving towards that level as developing nations get wealthier, if they do!

Also, consider the following statistics from U.S. Department of Transportation.

Average household size went from 3.3 in 1960 to 2.6 in 2000, a decline of over one-fifth. At the same time, vehicles per household rose from just over 1.0 to about 1.7, an increase of almost two-thirds... The census shows that in 2000 three-quarters of commuters drove alone to work(75.7 percent), followed by carpooling (12.2 percent), transit (4.7 percent), work at home(3.3 percent) and walk (2.9 percent). In 1960, 41 million commuters were in private vehicles; by 2000, 113 million workers commuted by private vehicle, nearly three times as many (See Exhibit E). Between 1990 and 2000, drove alone continued to increase, as carpools continued to drop. By 2000, the average vehicle occupancy for the commute trip was 1.08... The total number of workers increased in the 1990s but the number of workers using transit stayed about the same (6 million workers commute by transit). Therefore the proportion of commuters by transit, or the mode share for transit, has slightly declined.

I received an email, forwarded, of course, asking me to sign a petition - Petition for President Bush to lower gas and diesel prices in the United States. And, unbeknownst to the person who forwarded this email, there are tons of such emails/forums with the same petition going around.

As far as I can think of, there are two reasons for the gas prices to be at such an astronomical levels; one of them is simply as dictated by the supply-demand equation - the demand is more than the supply and hence the higher price, and the second one is some people with vested interests in the oil sector are pushing up the prices artificially.

In any case, aren't we barking at the wrong tree? Aren't we as owners and regular users of private vehicles responsible for this mess? As can be seen from the above statistics, the number of private vehicles has increased leaps and bounds, as compared to the population. Further, the number of people using public transportation system has stayed the same, if not dwindled. Wouldn't a better option, than vociferously putting all the blame on the authorities, be to pressurize the government to better the quality of public-transportation, so that more people start using it? For me at least, the quality of mass-transit system available at the place where I am is not great, and I don't have my own vehicle. If the mass-transit system is made better, I would at least feel safe while traveling in these buses. Secondly, many people are not willing to give up the luxury-turned-necessity of traveling in their own vehicles. I would say, it is their mindset that needs to be changed, before complaining about the gas prices and going gung-ho over asking the authorities to lower the gas prices. They need to understand that the only way out in tackling this problem of ever-depleting energy resource is to use it wisely, and not to make it cheap for everyone to waste it as they feel like. If the first reason for the price increase is, indeed, the case, then the demand for the gas will decrease reflecting in a decrease in gas-prices. On the other hand, if the second reason is the case, then the decrease in demand will affect the revenues earned by those with vested interest benefitted from the profits - more of a non-cooperation movement ala refusal of the residents of Delhi to pay for the unjustified power-charge hike, leading the government to roll-back the hike.

On other hand, going from what the number for the sales of private vehicles say, it seems that most people consider that having and using a private vehicle is a birth-right which sits way at the top of this list of our rights. The sales of private vehicles have, in fact, gone up, to the extent that those gas-guzzling SUVs have the highest share in this increase. Of course, news articles, such as this, seem to point that there are vested interests in promoting people to buy more vehicles. And, people are, in fact, falling in for the trick.

So, who is to blame for the increase in gas prices? The owners and users of private vehicles are equally culpable for this state of affairs as are those with vested interests.


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