Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My response to high gas prices...

John Fleck from the Albuquerque Journal asked his readers whether the rising price of gasoline was changing their behavior, and got some interesting responses. A few days late, I'm going to answer here.

  • I figured out how to use cruise control on my car. Yes, I realize it isn't rocket science, but I had an irrational fear of careening off the road while trying to figure out which buttons and levels and knobs controlled my speed. But I figured it out.

  • I started keeping a little notebook to record gas purchases and mileage. My dad used to do this in the 70's, but my husband and I weren't organized enough to keep doing it once we had a car. But my car is a 2001 model, from the days of cheap gas, and it doesn't tell me what mileage I'm getting. (Plus the IRS now requires some kind of clearly synchronous record of business travel, and this seemed to be a good way to record it.) The results: my Subaru gets 28 to 30 mpg.

  • And finally... I'm moving. Into town. To a house within walking distance of work. The decision was driven more by the realization that I'm going to be a soccer mom, and living outside of town means that every activity takes an extra forty minutes because of driving. If I could reduce the driving time, I could do more research, or exercise more, or spend even more time telling my son that he needs to put his shoes on, or read more stuff on the internet. (This will also allow me to eventually replace the Subaru with something that gets high gas mileage, but doesn't have all-wheel drive. And most of the time, I will replace the Subaru with my feet, a bike, and the town bus system.)

If my blogging seems light, it's because I'm spending my blogging time cleaning the house so that it looks nice for prospective buyers.


ScienceWoman said...

Wow! That is a drastic adjustment to high gas prices, although obviously it has other reasons as well. I'm sure you will miss your mountain home and its beautiful views.

But as a child who grew up out in the country and was limited from participating in activities because my mom didn't have the time or energy to drive me into town, I'm sure your son will like living closer to friends and school. Even if he never tells you that.

Kim said...

:D But Sciencewoman, I live in Durango. It's not like I'm moving someplace all nasty and crowded. (And walking distance from campus means there are views of the La Plata Mountains from the bedroom window, and views of the ridge where I teach Field Methods from the lawn.)

It's not on top of a hill, so there aren't views in all directions, but there are still views. The big difference is there will be cars going by at night, so the noise will be hard to get used to. And the neighbors are close enough that we'll have to behave ourselves in the yard, which for my son will mostly mean that he won't be allowed to pee on bushes when he's playing outside.

Andrew Alden, Oakland Geology blog said...

You'll enjoy not being a cager any more. I use my car rarely (outside of field trips), and life is sweeter on foot.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kim,

For zipping around town, take a look at the electric vehicles being produced by this company: You can pretty much *only* get around town at this point with them. I'm getting a scooter to bop around the Pioneer Valley with, while saving my car for longer trips (and fieldwork.

-Joe K.

John Fleck said...

Kim -

I'm intrigued by your calculation about the benefit of moving into town. We've been talking about this issue at the office, and so I did the back of the envelope calculation this morning that suggested the dollar savings, while real, weren't huge. Talking about it with my wife, though, it was quickly obvious that the time savings were enormous. (I live 8 miles from work - just 15 minutes by car, but they're such lost minutes.)

Kim said...

The time savings become an even bigger issue with me, when I do things like forget to bring some crucial thing with me, and end up doing the drive four times in one day.

It's the added kid that tips the balance for me. He would be going to school a fifteen-minute drive from home - in the opposite direction from my commute. There's the bus, yes (though a kindergartener probably needs a grown-up to wait for the bus with him), but then there's getting sick and needing to come home early, or the requests to play soccer or go to a friend's house in the opposite direction. I'm having trouble juggling the time of the commute plus the daycare dropoff now; when he starts kindergarten, it will be worse, because of the opposite commute and the demands to do stuff.

Plus I know enough about the environmental costs of driving that I've got a guilt factor, too. I would end up trying to balance his guilt trips ("why won't you let me do anything?", which is already starting at age five), my environmental guilt, and my desire to work as a geology professor... and my work would start to seem incredibly selfish.

So we're moving, in hopes that the balance will be easier.

Anonymous said...

Our govt. needs to stop punishing its' citizens and domestic auto makers!!!! If you really want to bring the price of fuel down we need to tax/limit the aviation industry especially the military and NASA. A 737/747 passenger plane will burn about 81 gallons of 115 octane fuel in 1 minute!!!! Compare that to your SUV and can you see the difference. We have spent too much time wasting/squandering our gasoline on foolish luxury things like space shuttle,air-craft carriers, and passenger planes that are not recycled but layed to waste in junkyards!!! And still our govt. feels it is necessary to make us pay more taxes, fees, and other pentalities because we are ungrateful. Stop sending our tax-payer money to other countries when your own citizens are starving...remember Katrina and almost all of the rebuilding was done by volunteers. Our govt. has abandoned us and live in a fantasy world of vacations.