Is Conserving Gas An Act Of Patriotism?

June 29, 2008

Yesterday morning, I felt compelled to call in to a local talk radio show that was discussing interesting ways that ordinary people are helping their fuel economy and hypermiling.  It has been a hot topic around the Chamber as of late, after all, and since the host mentioned that he’s heard of people yanking out their passenger seat and speakers as a somewhat drastic measure of weight reduction, I just had to confirm it for him.   Yep, I’m one of those guys:

What got me in trouble with other caller, however, was the fact that I mentioned that my overriding motivation for hypermiling wasn’t to save money or the planet, but patriotism (yes, I used the “P” word.  “patriotic duty” was the phase, to be exact).   I should have known better, really.   After all, saying that you’re doing something because you feel its patriotic is one of those classic grenades, because you’re inherently implying that anyone who isn’t doing it is unpatriotic.   And them thar’s fightin’ words on a conservative talk radio show, I tell ya, even if it wasn’t really my intent.  So, “Rick” got on the line and took issue with what I said, saying that I was “right out of the Jimmy Carter era” (something I didn’t hear until I got a chance to cue up the podcast1 when I got home).  So, seeing as I was unable to retort and defend my position on the radio, I figured that I might as well bring it on here into the Chamber (and it makes a good follow-up to my previous post anyway).  

But am I completely off my rocker?  I mean, we’re not talking about an activity that most people can do without here.  If the price of, say, movie tickets jumps up to $20 within a few months, then what do ya know, people stop going to the movie theaters.  No biggie.  But if the price of gasoline rises up to $5 a gallon, then $6, then $7, and we’re still consuming the same amount, there’s really no reason to believe that it’ll go down, and the far-reaching implications of that are downright frightening.  Of course, to cope, people may drive less or decide to carpool to work, but unfortunately this stuff is the life blood of our economy, and there’s not much on the horizon that would lead one to believe that we’ll stop using it altogether anytime soon.   One could make the argument that, at this point, our ability to use it affordably is critical to our way of life.  And if someone who goes out of their way to do their part to protect that way of life is considered a patriot, well…would doing one’s part to decrease the demand2 be such a bad thing?

I should note, emphatically, that I’m not saying that just because you drive an SUV you are a problem.  Believe me, I work in the industry, and I know first hand that there are plenty of people out there who can’t get out of these vehicles even if they wanted to, and they’re hurting as much or more than anyone ($100 fill-ups gotta sting).   Heck, I wish I had it in my budget to get a 40mpg car right now.  But, interestingly, the reality is that the stuck SUV drivers have the greatest savings potential, as it turns out.  By employing just a few simple hypermiling techniques, any driver can see a 10% increase on their MPG, and if you do the math, that 10% in an SUV results in a greater impact on total fuel consumption than gaining 10% in, say, my Cougar.   And 10% in my Cougar has a greater impact than 10% in a Prius, and so forth.   Vehicles that are fuel efficient are great, and we can hope the manufacturers continue to improve them, but we all have the power to help out on this.  

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1 I come in at about 39 min into part 1, and it continues into part 2, if you’re interested.

2I’m going on the assumption that this is a supply and demand issue, which I’m sure is one of those things that people are going to debate as well.  So, if it isn’t, well, then I guess I’m just saving money.  (about $90 in the 2 months I’ve been concentrating on it)

Update:  How about a link and quote to support that I’m on the right track…

“If you could take 10% off the weight of every car on the planet overnight, it would make so much more difference than all the new engine technologies and fuel technologies that people are talking about,”


  1. Dear Chen,

    The Dead Rabbit has thought about your act of self proclaimed patriotism and has made a ruling. You are, in fact, doing a patriotic deed.

    However, the Dead Rabbit has some concerns.

    1.For starters, one can be patriotic for a futile act or even a stupid one. For instance, envision some Red Dawn scenario where foreign rogues have taken over the Chamber. You know the National Guard is on the way, but out of sheer principal you launch a suicidal attack on the buccaneers.

    2.You are dancing on a slippery slope of accepting a command economy. You are responsible for a patriotic act because of free will. However, some will construe what you’re doing as a necessity that should be implemented by government. Just as free speech can erode a by numerous acts of self censorship; at what point will the government deem all commodities essential to national security and suspend the free market?

    3.I question your motives. If you admit you’re not even making a dent in curbing oil demand (pretty tough to do for an inelastic good), is your act actually anti-free market propaganda? If so, tread carefully, the Dead Rabbit and his friends read John Locke.

  2. dead rabbit-

    Thanks for stopping by. I guess I see your point for #1, but #2 is much more of a gray area. There are traffic laws, obviously. Most of them exist for individual safety, and I guess I wouldn’t have a problem with laws that have a different rationale. I mean, would you have a problem if I said that speed limits or the TPMS mandate are on the books to conserve fuel? The government already has its hand in commodities with subsidies and such, so I’m not sure we have a purely free market to begin with. But overall, I’d say that legislation that promotes this behavior would be acceptable (like, for example, like requiring an “instant economy” gauge on your car, but ultimately it’d be hard to keep people from wasting gas. I dunno. Good question.

    As for #3, I don’t see it that way. It’s propaganda, I suppose, but this is something that I’m hoping will become a trend that grows large enough to make a dent. Otherwise, at the end of the day I’m just saving myself money (like I said). I will admit that yankin’ out my passenger seat had a certain feeling of protest attached to it, though.

  3. Well, I guess the Dead Rabbit should come clean on something. You see, the Dead Rabbit loves early 70’s Ford Thunderbirds. They are like urban tanks: Muscle cars that also have the long hood of an old school cruiser Cadillac. The Dead Rabbit has been through a lot, worked hard and decided long ago to start saving up for one. This car is probably the least efficient piece of machinery on earth. Chen, are you saying Big Brother should shatter Dead Rabbit’s dream to one day cruise around in one? I’ll pay for the gas, I swear. You bring up subsidies and government tinkering. But isn’t that ultimately on the supply side? Big Brother telling me how to spend my money? I’ve already brought up the slippery slope. What’s next? Perhaps the government will tell me I can’t enjoy a T-bone steak on the bbq. After all, eating steak is a thousand times less efficient then even a Hummer. You’re very trusting of authority. Remember, freedom comes with a price. Sometimes it’s 5 dollars a gallon.

  4. dead rabbit-

    You gotta take it easy on hopping (pun intended) between the 1st and 3rd person, cause I was getting a little confused there for a second. But no, I don’t want Big Brother to keep you from having your T-bird. Just keep the tires properly inflated, and you can still hypermile.

    This slippery slope concept is interesting, but I don’t know if there is much to worry about. Big Brother already tells you that you can’t spend your money on cocaine, prostitutes, bazookas, nuclear fuel rods, etc., so the lines are there but they don’t move much. There’s always someone pushing back.

  5. On a another note isn’t higher gas prices something many in government want ? You see the greens are tres happy. The Economist has an article that looks at the infrastructure and how America needs to dream big again. This is only to be accomplished with fuel and use taxes and eventually mandatory transponders for your rolling tolls hypermiling or not.
    I have to ask this also. How happy are people that another set of blasting speakers are off the road.Better mpg and less noise pollution-you sir are truly a patriot.

  6. The Dead Rabbit is sorry about his bad habits with 1st and 3rd person. I will work on that.

  7. haha

    Alfie- I’ve been listening to talk radio for so long, I hardly miss the subs.

  8. There are people walking around with chips on their shoulders, basically. You’re doing something out of patriotism, right? That means that it motivates you.

    Different people, even believing in the same values, might express them differently.

    As for being out of the Carter era … well, you know … the gas situation is getting to be there, too.

    Wait a minute … those are car speakers? That’s insane …

  9. wickle-

    As for being out of the Carter era … well, you know … the gas situation is getting to be there, too.

    Wait a minute … those are car speakers? That’s insane …

    Actually, the gas prices broke the inflation adjusted record last year. We’re officially in uncharted territory now.

    And yes, those are car speakers. You’ve never seen that? That’s nothing. LOL The box must have weighed 100 lbs, so losing it helped I think.

  10. Your actions are great, in a sense they can be termed patriotic. A patriotic act is something that benefits and is in support of your country if I’m correct. That is exactly what you are doing. I also think there are more ways that ordninary people can help. A large coordinated boycott of one of the Big Oil companies can help make a statement.

    I’m part of a campaign to boycott Exxon Mobil, the current leader in profits during this energy crisis. Check it out here https://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/send-a-message-to-the-oil-companies/overview

    We can all do our part and this is a way to get involved. It doesn’t require much to make something big happen.

  11. Conserving gas is more or less an act of self preservation. And the current development will lead to a world wide crisis within the next few years. The next prices to rise are those for electricity and natural gas, cause these are closely linked to the world wide oil prices. Also, food prices are on a global rise. And may the gods help us, if someone’s stupid enough to attack Iran.

    Come winter, that development becomes life threatening for the poorer part of the populace of the Western hemisphere and the general population of the second and third world. We’re steering head over heels into a world wide crisis, only compareable to the situation in the 30ies. The business cycle will suffer accordingly – less comsumer power means less business for the industry and rising unemployment. Rising prices mean higher inflation rates in most of the Western countries.

    And it’s a man made situation. It’s partly because of the ongoing war in Iraq, partly because of the simmering Iran crisis and largely because of the major oil companies syndicating instead of competing and because of stockjobbing.

    No, in my eyes it’s not an act of patriotism to conserve gas. It should be the duty and the interest of the governments to protect their citizens from the worst implications. It should be, because what we’re witnessing right now is a perversion of the free market. A virtual market making money out of everybodies pockets without the least competition and to the benefit of only a few chosen ones. It should be in the interest of the government because a world wide crisis will lead to unrest and wars.

  12. “It should be the duty and the interest of the governments to protect their citizens from the worst implications.”

    There is another way our government could protect us. Take Iraqi oil. Take Iranian oil. If we really wanted to throw our military weight around God help those oil rich barbarians.

    America is a unique empire. For the first time in history, there is a shortage on a desperately needed resource, and the world’s sole super power isn’t waging a war of aggression to fleece weaker states.

    Start with the Sumerians, and end with the British Empire. Not one empire has ever been as benevolent as America.

    Some will say that is so because we are a democracy. But that didn’t stop the Athenians from having a direct democracy at home and exporting tyranny abroad. The same can be said of the French and the British.

    Other’s will claim we don’t wage wars of acquisition because of Manifest Destiny. That our national boundaries were so large, and its native people so easy to conquer that we never had a need to expand. But look at Russian history. They expanded the same way under the same circumstances and still felt the need to play the “Great Game”. The Russians have expanded into the West and the South. The Slavs and the Turks.

    I guess a maybe a weak spot in my argument would be the Mexican-American war. However, even the Texans voted to join the Union.

    Uh…the dead rabbit needs to get a life.

  13. And as for the “virtual market”, I’m not sure its so virtual. I think it’s actually somewhat rational. There is a oil shortage. And the Middle East is as unstable as ever. So, it makes sense for oil to sky rocket. And as for the “select few”, there is nothing stopping you or me from investing in oil. Hell, quit the IRA fund and invest in black gold!

  14. Andrew-

    Thanks for stopping by, but I don’t really need to change anything to boycott Exxon, since all the gas for my cars is purchased at Super America, which is a subsidiary of Marathon Oil. In other words, I guess I’m already boycotting them.

    Interesting idea though.


    OK I suppose that I see your point. Conserving gas in and of itself is more about self preservation than anything else. Perhaps then, it’s those who do it and spread the word. To that end, I’ve got the Chamber and the ability to call in to radio shows (yay!). Maybe I could do more (I’ve got some rather outside-the-box ideas on this). But if that makes me patriotic, the guy who deserves the friggin Presidential Medal of Freedom would be Wayne Gerdes.

  15. The dead rabbit really isn’t the classic internet cook he appears to be. He just likes going on rants when drinking Belgian ales.

  16. he’s also not a kook….

  17. Far be it from me to actually give the General a compliment. Yes, consider yourself a responsible citizen, a good citizen. And I do think that is patriotic.

    I think everybody should be conserving whether you can afford $5.00 gas or not. Kind of along the lines of just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should do something… Like I said, in their own unique way, the rich gas guzzlers are aiding some of our biggest enemies.

    {Channeling Al Gore; possibly the world’s biggest energy hypocrite}

  18. […] See Chamber thread: Is Conserving Gas An Act Of Patriotism? […]

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