Why You Should Smile at Higher Gas Prices

There are lots of amusing stories in the news these days, as there always are when gas prices are rising. They often feature quotes like this, “I’ve got a 65-mile commute each way and these prices are making it impossible to put food on my table for my two kids!”, said Irene Smith as she finished pumping $134.00 of regular unleaded into the tank of her Chevrolet Avalanche.

Gasoline and other fuels have been so cheap for so long that most US residents have built their entire lives with no consideration for energy use at all.

  • Got a job offer from a company 50 miles away? Take the job! That’s less than an hour commute at 75 MPH!
  • Want your kids to go to the fancy charter school across town? Easy! It’s only 3 miles each way! (4 times a day, 200 days per year).
  • Running out of eggs for the recipe you’re working on? Beh! Just grab the car keys and take the Minivan down to Safeway!
  • Got a plumbing business and need to carry around a few wrenches and plastic pipes? Grab the V-8 powered Ford Econoline!
  • Starting high-school and want to impress the rest of the football team? Try a full-size pickup truck!!

As a result of this completely casual attitude towards driving, American drivers average about 13,500 miles per year. PER DRIVER! Multiplied by the US fleetwide average fuel economy of about 26 MPG for passenger vehicles and with gas at $3.75/gallon, we have about $2000 going up in smoke each year, or $4000 for a family or 2-car couple. And gas represents only about a quarter of actual car operation costs, meaning closer to $16,000 per year of total vehicle expenses per family.

It is of course frustrating to feel trapped with a massive expense that suddenly rises. But the reason we should all want these prices to go up is to wake everyone up and stop the insanity. If we could get the car lover crowd to understand these four points, we would be set:

  • Cheap oil has CAUSED the country to be designed in a gas-wasting manner. Hell, it’s almost rational to live the way we do if gas were free and if there were no environmental consequences to burning it!
  • The price of oil is going to go crazy occasionally, because of annoying hedge-fund speculators in the short-term, and because of a general shortage in the long run (world oil use is growing faster than production so there is not much safety margin left).
  • Your gas pump price is based on the worldwide price of oil. Since we don’t have much of the oil reserves, we can’t influence that price much no matter how many wells we drill in our oceans and wildlife areas.
  • Even if we COULD drop the price for a while with extreme oil drilling, we’d just be back at #1 – creating even more inefficient suburbs and cars to ensure a greater price spike once we are even more hooked.

If the price could stay high for a while though, our amazing industrial society would automatically adjust in the name of profit:

  • more efficient cars would come to North America, as they already are in Europe (50 MPG diesels, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars, no more SUVs and pickups)
  • cities would fill in more efficiently, making it easier for people to bike and walk, and even public transit would work better because of more compact cities and higher ridership
  • food that uses a lot of fuel to produce and ship would rise in price more than efficient foods – people would switch to buying the less energy-intensive food
  • people would insulate their houses and builders would start taking advantage of free heat from South-facing windows, etc.
  • Transport trucks would adopt aerodynamic modifications and drive more slowly – saving fuel and creating more payable hours for drivers
  • world oil use would drop significantly, causing a lower equilibrium price – reducing the profits sent to oil-exporting countries, and keeping them for ourselves!

Overall, we’d use a lot less fuel, and find ourselves stuck in traffic less often. Less driving would mean lower road expenditures for governments and thus lower taxes. But we’d still be spending more on our lifestyle overall, which sucks because the beneficiary of our extra spending would be oil-exporting countries. The only escape would be through less driving, owning a better car, and more biking.. things that aspiring Mustachians are already doing more each day.

But what if there were a way to create all the benefits of the higher fuel prices, without actually increasing your cost of living? What if we could siphon off all the Saudi Arabia money and pump it back into our own economy in the form of lower income taxes, and even better education and healthcare?

Other countries have actually invented a way to do this – are you ready for this? It is called “Taxes on Gasoline”. Yet for some reason, no US politician who suggests this great idea ever gets elected, so they have stopped suggesting it altogether.

I like to repeat these points in my own head when I do need to buy gas for my own car – normally less than once a month but about to become a daily experience during an upcoming cross-country roadtrip to spend the summer in Canada.

Finding a reason to feel good about high gas prices is a pretty neat trick. But if you ever hear a politician proposing that we all pay higher gas taxes permanently – support him!

  • Geek June 16, 2011, 10:43 am

    Agree. Completely.

  • Bakari Kafele June 16, 2011, 11:14 am

    I haven’t even read the article.

    Just based on the title.

    Best. Post. Ever.

    MMM, you are my hero.

  • Bakari Kafele June 16, 2011, 11:34 am

    Yup, I knew it.

    One point to add:
    Even if gas were free and had no environmental impacts, car accidents would still be the number one non-disease cause of death and the number one overall cause of death for Americans under 40.

    And even if gas were free and with out ecological consequences, our sedentary lifestyle (of which car culture is the primary component) would still be a primary factor in our obesity epidemic and a significant cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer…

    More efficient cars won’t help those issues any more than low gas prices.

    Now, I’m not suggesting anyone give up driving 100% (like in the Gubbins Experiment gubbinsexperiment.blogspot.com/ )
    But most of us could probably cut back 50% or so.

    Since something like 80% of US auto trips have one or zero passengers (not including the driver) consider following the rest of the world and making more use of motorcycles and scooters, which not only get better mileage but cost much less up front than cars (giving them an advantage over hybrids and pure electrics), and also eliminate parking problems.

    But there will always be times we are going to drive cars.
    For those times, there is hypermileing. On my recent cross country trip we averaged over 40mpg in a car EPA rated for under 30. In my truck I double what most people get (15mpg), saving around $2000 a year in fuel costs.
    I’m planning to make a class about hypermiling, and when I do I’ll probably post it online, but until then, my instructable page tells how I get 30mpg out of a 20 year old 2-ton truck:

  • Kathy P. June 16, 2011, 11:57 am

    Agree completely.

    Actually, I thought gas prices would be higher than they are by now. In my area (central NY) it’s running around $3.85 after peaking a little over $4.00. One thing I have noticed though is that the price of things made of plastic is going through the roof. I wonder if they’re keeping the price of gas artificially low and making up for it on the price of petroleum by-products used for manufacturing plastics.

    The guy at Midwest Permaculture said he paid around $250 for a 450 gallon plastic water tank for his rain-harvesting system a couple years ago. The same tank (the round ones that fit in the back of a pickup) are now $400. I’m trying to find used food-safe barrels to collect rainwater – I had thought I would start with 6 but I’m thinking it would make more sense to get a dozen or more because the price of plastic (even used) will probably just keep climbing. If I don’t use them all, I could probably sell the excess for more than I paid.

  • Michael June 16, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Great post. It always amazes me how little you guys pay for fuel, or how much you complain when it goes up a little bit :) We’re paying around £1.40 per litre (around $8.50 per gallon?) and life goes on.

    Granted, we don’t drive nearly as much as you do, and our infrastructure isn’t quite as reliant on cheap fuel. But then as you say, we have far more efficient cars, and we generally won’t drive 50 miles for a burger :)

    Personally, I can’t see another quick and relatively easy way for the US to make the much needed shift away from car dependence than for sustained high fuel prices. It may hurt some people for a while, but for long term sustainability, it may be better than than a series of shocks later. If people follow the brilliant advice in this blog, then rising prices just wouldn’t matter as much for them.


  • Kevin M June 16, 2011, 12:20 pm

    I agree 100%, we need short-term pain to get long-term results. You saw a little of that a few years ago when people starting flocking to small cars and shunning SUVs, but that didn’t last too long. Unfortunately we’ve become addicted to the oil-producing teet. Lots of people pay lip service about “getting off foreign oil” but few (me included) do much about it.

  • MMM June 16, 2011, 12:58 pm

    Nice.. I always enjoy the use of the word “teet” or “teat” because it reminds me of Mike Myers saying it in a big fake Scottish accent.

    • Paul T June 17, 2011, 1:06 pm

      Mike’s dad was Scottish so it actually was not too bad.

  • Tim June 16, 2011, 1:02 pm

    If there is one thing that will unite Americans to say, ‘NO!’, it is high gas prices. Knowing this, the feds avoid over-taxing the stuff, we can’t have the people thinking for themselves, or voting the less popular…
    As oil prices climb globally, and infrastructure crumbles, we must find a way to appease the US populus, at least as long as possible, this will be done without raising gas taxes! New legislation and pilot projects are leaning toward a MILEAGE TAX! Let us tax based on how far you drive… Legislation will pass with flying colors, since this tax will prove less expensive to the average Joe. And, it’s fair, a Prius tears up the roads just as much as a Ford Aerostar! We ARE in need of infrastructure repairs.
    Then we will have given the feds another way to play with our employees.
    AND, the Ms won’t yet be smiling at higher gas prices.

    • Paul T June 17, 2011, 1:09 pm

      So my little frugal car pays the same as an Escalade? Fuel tax works because those with the biggest most damaging vehicles pay more. 18 Wheelers, Trucks, SUVs – BAM!

      • GregK June 4, 2012, 9:29 am

        These are called tolls… I’m not sure how you enforce mileage taxes other than tolls (self reporting? IRS auditor checks your odometer?). The vehicle size is taken into account for tolls as well, so that solves that problem. There are plenty of places in the US where there are no tolls — opportunity! The complanypants will always complain about tolls (and fees and taxes) wherever they are however… Hard to get around that.

        • PeterW January 12, 2015, 8:32 am

          To answer your question they are called annual inspections. When you have your car inspected annually they could require the inspector to record the mileage. This would be added to your vehicle tax. Not a big fan of the mileage tax though because it seems to add complication and more government overhead.

          While raising gas tax seem to be a more efficient and simple way to achieve almost the same result. (However, politically it will be nearly impossible as mentioned above).

      • Oh Yonghao April 15, 2014, 11:47 am

        The problem comes when we have frugal hybrids that do as much damage to the road as comparable size cars. They way just as much, have as wide of a footprint, but use very little gas. Then there are the all electric vehicles which pay nothing for road infrastructure. Is that fair that they get to ride along on the road without paying? It may work for now but if we do transition to many more all electric vehicles then there has to be a transition point.

        Washington state has thought about this a few times but they run into problems with people driving to Oregon, Idaho, or Canada and saying that they shouldn’t be taxed on the miles driven there. This argument is a little inane, when I lived in Washington and worked in Oregon I mostly filled up in Washington but most of my commute was in Oregon, I didn’t complain about those tax dollars being paid to Washington (I complain more about Oregonians not paying sales tax in Washington but I still had to pay income tax to Oregon, although as an Oregonian now I bask in its glory). The alternative is one that even more people dislike and that is having GPS on their car. It’s a dumb idea, but some proponents say that they also shouldn’t be paying for mileage on unmaintained roads, which is equally inane as they already do through fuel taxes. The privacy advocates don’t want to let something like this get through either and I can understand their point. I’d be all okay with having an annual odometer reporting and random auditing to keep people honest; every year when someone renews their tabs on their car they can report their mileage, when they go through emissions testing every other year they can also check the odometer to save on the need to audit. They could use different classification of cars to give your frugal car a lower rate than the SUV’s.

        My city actually charges a tax on all water bills which goes towards bicycle lanes. It works out to about $72/year/household to help build lanes. Short of a bicycle register it is hard to get bicycles to pay a portion, although admittedly their wear and tear on the road is much less than any car. As a bike rider I don’t mind it, although I don’t understand why it should be on our water bill which is already too high with over inflated base rates adding up to $95 before paying for any water. That number includes water base, sewer base, groundwater treatment, taxes, and bicycle lane improvement, but that’s a topic for a different story.

  • ermine June 16, 2011, 2:32 pm

    One of the things fuel price going up does do that is good is it prices other people off the roads. I HATE having other people on the roads get in my way , and in the UK it is observable that our congested highways are getting a little bit less congested as other people are priced off the road.

    That’s cool with me, I’d rather pay more when I do drive and not be stuck in traffic so much ;) It also makes biking to work more fun because the saving is higher

    • GregK June 4, 2012, 9:31 am

      I was surprised MMM didn’t include the implied benefit of biking going up when fuel prices go up. You’re getting paid more to bike everywhere!

  • GL June 16, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Come on, MMM, you ought to know better than that… This post sounds like a draft by an overly idealistic college freshman who doesn’t understand how the world works. Why, sure – if we took all the money we spend on foreign oil, we could change a lot of stuff. And sure, it would be neat if people walked more and were more courteous to one another. The problem is, that’s not how people work. Unless there’s a very clear material advantage to altering their behavior, any fundamental changes (like the ones you propose) will take decades to set in. On the other hand, we have the “shop and fly” patriotic imperative that considers frugality a dirty word, and a HUGE chunk of the population who will not give up their trucks and SUVs for anything.

    This reminds me of the old Bill Hicks routine where he said that if we eliminated our entire defense budget, we’d be able to feed, clothe and educate every poor person in the world, and we’d still have enough cash left over to explore the outer space forever. It sure would be nice, but it’s never going to happen in this country – at least not while the Boomers and Gen-X’ers are around. (There is still some hope for the Generation Y.)

    *cue moral outrage from Internet hippies*

    • MMM June 16, 2011, 5:14 pm

      Oh, my apologies GL.. we wouldn’t want the blog about becoming rich by shutting off the bullshit consumer lifestyle so you can raise your kids naturally and live a creative and Ultimately Healthy life until age 100 to sound idealistic!

      Seriously though, I am not suggesting that the US populace is smart enough to restrict its oil consumption even in the face of low prices. I’m suggesting that now that the prices are higher, we will start to see some more focus on efficiency – purely due to economic factors. I’m also suggesting that MMM readers, being a drastically more advanced breed than average, can smile, rather than frown about this development. And that they support gas taxes as part of future government initiatives if they come up.
      This is just pure capitalism and democracy – no idealism required.

      As for that huge portion of SUV and Truck drivers – the sales of the largest models have already dropped by something like 80% from the mid-2000s peak. This huge portion of drivers is getting smaller and smaller – and it’s the rising fuel prices that are making the people wise up. If gas went up a couple more bucks, the population of gas wasters like the ones I photographed for the title of this article will shrink down drastically further. And I’ll smile even more!

      • GL June 16, 2011, 5:37 pm

        “I’m suggesting that now that the prices are higher, we will start to see some more focus on efficiency – purely due to economic factors.”
        Yes, but the nation’s obsession with frugality and fuel efficiency will be temporary – it will only last until the next economic bubble. It happens every decade or so: there’s a recession or spike in gas prices, people suddenly get very money-conscious, then the economy gets back to normal and Hummers get in vogue once more. :(

        “And that they support gas taxes as part of future government initiatives if they come up.”
        MMM readers – sure. The rest of the country – not really. Consider this: right now, Americans have the lowest tax rate in history – even lower than during the Reagan administration. Do we see anybody celebrate that fact with festival and singing/dancing in the streets? Nope, people are still complaining about high taxes and there’s even a popular political party called Taxed Enough Already… My point is that by and large, your typical consumer is an idiot who will follow whatever he hears on the radio and gets easily distracted by shiny objects (Hummers, 60″ plasma TVs, etc.). Of course, a typical MMM reader is far more advanced than that, but not everyone is like us. :-P

        (And it’s not “Greg,” by the way.)

        • MMM June 16, 2011, 6:45 pm

          Oops, fixed your name in my response, sorry about that.

          As my final point in this debate.. who do you think Mr. Money Mustache is writing these articles for: MMM readers, or non-MMM-readers?

          If I was writing the keynote address for an RV-and-powerboat association convention, I’d take a different approach ;-)

          • Gus January 19, 2012, 3:24 pm

            “If I was writing the keynote address for an RV-and-powerboat association convention, I’d take a different approach ;-)”

            No you would’nt!This is what makes you so awesome! You would PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE for being so glabrous!

            • Bakari January 19, 2012, 3:36 pm

              I had to look up the word “glabrous”

              wtf? RV and boat dealers are hairless?

            • Gus January 19, 2012, 3:41 pm

              In the ‘Stash sense, they are indeed incredibly glabrous. :P

      • Richie Poor June 21, 2014, 9:30 am

        I think higher prices will thankfully reduce SUVs on the road but there also could be unintended consequences. The most unfortunate one could be higher food prices. Then we see headlines like “Poor people and children hardest hit!” That might be one reason why the gas tax is unlikely. Who wants to take the heat for that?

        High oil prices could also be a barrier for poor countries trying to industrialize. Perhaps the barrier of higher energy prices might help them realize they are better of sticking to the small farming communities or narcotics production that they are used to. Since I support farming and narcotics I really think it might be better. Certainly better for Earth. I do feel for the poor entrepreneur who gets priced out of business. It’s unfortunate that rising costs of resources often hurt the little guy the most.

        Hopefully science will save the day.

    • Kevin M June 17, 2011, 7:00 am

      “Unless there’s a very clear material advantage to altering their behavior, any fundamental changes (like the ones you propose) will take decades to set in.”

      I’d say going from $3 gallon gas to $6, 8, 10 is a “clear material advantage” to alter behavior. It may take decades to adjust to a less car-dependent society, so be it. The best time to start was 25 years ago, the second best time to start is now.

      • GL June 17, 2011, 7:19 am

        Good point, but we won’t see $6 gas prices for a long, *long* time. The OPEC is well aware of what you’re saying, and they’ll continue their old game of push&pull. They artificially inflate the oil prices to scare the consumers, then lower them to calm everyone down. After a year or so of low prices, people will relax, forget about the whole thing, and buy more gas-guzzling SUVs. Unless we enter a bona fide peak oil scenario (and that won’t happen anytime soon), things will just stay the way they are now.

  • GL June 16, 2011, 5:38 pm

    *with festivals

  • DDD June 16, 2011, 8:05 pm

    I just switched from already reasonable small car at 30 MPG to 2005 Jetta TDI with manual transmission at 55 MPG, but I still cringe when I shell out any money on gas. As a European immigrant, I used to buy cheap monthly pass for public transportation so only use for the car was hauling something and trips to our cottage. Not an option in the car capital of Canada. Apparently, my current city had public tram system before San Francisco, but eventually GM bought it out and promptly closed it and even removed the tracks. It is so bad that I live less than 1 mile from the largest local shopping centre, but due to lack of walking trails or even sidewalks, I would need to make a 4 mile detour to get there (highway does not allow for bicycles or walkers).

    I agree with your post – tax the gas into oblivion.

  • Mark June 17, 2011, 12:52 am

    I love when you call people out on their crazy! Everyone gets so upset with so called high gas prices. It is like the TSA color system. Announce a color changing its hue slightly and everyone freaks out.

    I never care about the weather because WHAT DOES IT MATTER? I own an umbrella and I own a thing called a JACKET (some of you MAY call this a COAT). Not rocket science.
    I never care about gas prices either. I mostly walk or bus.

    I like you MMM, You talk sense.

  • Nitin June 17, 2011, 3:25 am

    I been reading your blog since your guest post on ERE. I have been reading ERE for some time now. I live in India and have just bought a second house close to work. I started reading your blog and ERE with the idea of early retirement in mind.
    I like the way you have managed to become debt free. However most of the ideas that you have laid down in the blog a common sense for most Indians. I mean we tend to save lot of money from our income. Women are taught the idea of investing money in bank accounts or buy gold for security(even if the women in the family is not working, she is supposed to save the money that is given to her to run the family expenses).

    Regarding the cost of gas…It makes me sad to see that many people in my country are trying to follow the western world. Car sales in India are rising every month. People are using the higher income to buy cars as status symbols when they have no use for it. The government is busy building roads which are getting full of new vehicles by the time they are completed.

    I have resisted the urge of buying a car for a long time now. But my wife seems to toy with the idea every now and then. I am going to ask her to read your blog…..

    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy your blog!!!

  • eva June 17, 2011, 11:49 am

    Re: Suburbs and community design–this is a major thing YOU CAN DO: push for zoning and land regulations that encourage walking, cycling, and accessibility for seniors, families, and people with disabilities. Here is how:

    1) Find out what your local government’s structure is like: you probably have a planning/zoning committee which enforces and creates regulations.

    2) Find out what kind of regulations your community has. Do they encourage walkable streets that have sidewalks and crosswalks, mix of businesses and homes, or is everything required to be very far apart so you have to drive? Think about things that make for comfortable walking and biking: are sidewalks required for new developments? What about bike lanes for streets? Are street trees required and cared for? What are the allowed sizes for buildings and how close to the street are they?

    3) Go to some public meetings. Many new projects have a public comment period where people can say if they like the design or not. You have the right to ask about proposed changes, and suggest better alternatives.

    4) If you have time, patience for politics, and want to help improve your community, join your planning/zoning committee.

    • MMM June 18, 2011, 11:15 pm

      Great point Eva! I am actually a bit of a Urban planning nerd myself. My area is pretty advanced, with more effort going into bike facilities than most parts of the country. And during my house building days, I actually built two custom houses in a fancy walkable neighborhood called Prospect New Town (www.prospectnewtown.com). Community design is improving overall these days but still needs more work. The people moving into the houses need even more work, since most people don’t bike or walk even when things are within easy range.

  • Macs July 9, 2011, 6:53 pm

    “Other countries have actually invented a way to do this – are you ready for this? It is called “Taxes on Gasoline”. Yet for some reason, no US politician who suggests this great idea ever gets elected, so they have stopped suggesting it altogether.”

    I’d have thought this would appeal to a ‘certain kind’ of American citizen…. “Hell, no! I’m not driving today…. I’m paying no TAX today!!!”

    Well, it helps me get through the day, thinking if the car’s parked up, I’m paying less tax :-) (I’m in the UK, so pay a wodge of tax on my fuel, but then again, I’m probably driving less than 1,000 mles this year…)

    And yes, it does make more sense than a ‘mileage’ tax — heavier vehicles take more out of the roads, and they use more fuel. Perfect tie-up to me. A ‘mileage tax’ just looks like another way for gas-guzzlers to shirk their dues. But what’s new???

  • Oskar July 21, 2011, 8:38 am

    I know I am very late into this conversation but I only found this website, thanks for all the interesting stuff MMM. As a person from a nordic country I was surprised to see when I lived in the US a couple of years back how dependent you are on your cars. We are used to allways having a public transport alternative and the cars we drive (a lot less) gets 2-3 times as many miles to the gallon. We actually spent more on gas while living in the US than we did when living in our home country and prices of gas were only a third….

    I also have a nice anecdote to tell. Where we lived in the the US we had a small shoping center with a pub on walking distance and there was acually a walking track on the side of the road to get there, when we had some friends over we wanted to go out and have a beer so we started walking to the pub, it was only about half a mile but during that time several cars stoped and to ask if we needed help…if our car had broken down…very friendly but also very funny:-)

  • kat March 30, 2012, 11:21 am

    I use oil for heat and frankly I do not smile when my tank of oil for the winter cost $200 more than the previous year’s. I agree with you on the changes that need to happen in this country but many of the affects are more widespread than just on transportation. If home heating oil (diesel) were to cost $8/gallon my heating costs will have gone from $850/year to $2200/year–and we have a very efficient home with an extremely efficient furnace. I would probably switch to burning wood or using a pellet stove (switching to natural gas would require a new furnace and many other upgrades to the house adding up to over $10k DIY style, and the recent fracking concerns have had me shying away from any support for natural gas drilling).

    I’d like to see the social change without the financial hardship, while I can afford the oil if the prices jump up, I’m sure there are families that cannot and will have to either go cold for the winter or cut back in other areas of their budget.

  • jaydubya June 8, 2012, 8:46 am

    I tend to shy away from forced social change and am not a fan of using the force of government to codify any view in law. That is not freedom and the law of unintended consequences often bites you in the ass. Now on the other hand if there is a need, such as gas taxes don’t cover infrastructure cost because of increase fuel efficiency (which is common in many states now) then yes the tax should be raised to cover the costs (we did that here in Georgia), or new taxes invented (again we did that here in Georgia too). I’m not anti-tax just pro individual freedom.

    It’s much better to just lead by example, as MMM does. I personally live my own life as I see fit and make the choices that are best for my family with little or no regard to social policy. I don’t care what the soccer moms are driving and how much they spend on gas, not my problem. Now when social policy and my needs come together of course I’ll lend my voice to support it or not on my own needs. Bike lanes on the road, yes lets do that! Better turn lanes for the local elementary school, well maybe, if it makes the cross walk safer. But to force someone to do something by threat of fine, jail, or taxes, no thank you. I’m not smart enough to try and run other people lives.

    • Gerard July 27, 2012, 7:59 am

      I think a lot of this varies by culture/society. I grew up in Quebec, where people talk about the rights of the collective, an idea you almost never hear in English North America. So there’s a much higher tolerance for social-engineering type taxation and government programmes. Some of the stuff we do would definitely be seen as “not freedom” in other places. But in Quebec, say, your perspective would be seen as selfish and anti-social! :-)

    • Kevin February 26, 2017, 5:54 pm

      i very much agree. i align left of centre politically overall, but i do have a decent sized libertarian streak. i dont like seeing government wielded like a club against the lifestyles of other people, no matter how asinine. reason with people to the best of your ability, and provide the best example you can with your own actions, but force is bad in my books (not categorically, but almost).

  • teen persuasion June 3, 2013, 8:17 am

    “Want your kids to go to the fancy charter school across town? Easy! It’s only 3 miles each way! (4 times a day, 200 days per year).”

    Distances to the kids’ schools is one of our biggest reasons for excessive driving in our rural area. The HS/MS campus is in the nearby village, 3 miles away. Due to a reconfiguration of the district, the ES is in the “other” village, 9 miles away, but still in the same town. Lots more children live in the town to the north that is also part of the district. There has been a push to try further consolidations of school districts in the name of saving money; they are studying building a joint HS with the district further north of us on the mutual border. Nevermind that there is no population center there (aka, village).

    I think the consolidation of things (governments, PO, CSDs, churches, businesses) has gone too far in some cases, and it makes more sense to encourage some distributed systems. I’m envious when I think of what this area had in times past, AKA before cars: a trolley system connecting with cities to the east and south, local hardware/butcher/grocery stores, thriving local businesses (barrel making, basket making, cheese, fruit processing, etc.), locally generated power (hydro), hotels. All of that has slowly been absorbed into “bigger and better” centralized things, always centralized somewhere else.

  • Miranda July 26, 2015, 10:06 am

    I would go one step further, there should be a luxury tax on gas-guzzling vehicles. You should pay more in more than one way for over-consumption of finite resources.

  • Marie September 10, 2015, 12:54 pm

    My brother and I used to operate a service business we inherited from our dad that covered an area about 1/3 the size of Kansas and involved deliveries of 5-gallon jugs of water and 50-lb bags of salt, in addition to the tools/replacement parts that had to be carried. There are only so many vehicles that will hold 76 5-gallon jugs of water, alone (a regular occurrence during the summer), and those don’t necessarily get star ratings on their gas mileage, no matter how efficient of a driver one is. Even with the service area broken up into smaller areas so that we covered a smaller area each day, that adds up to a lot of gas with a limited number of stops possible each day between drive time and the time required for the service stop. Even when gas was over $3, it was killing us because we didn’t want to raise prices by that much and put an extra burden on our customers, but the gas bill was exorbitant.

    Should businesses of this type simply go out of business?

    • Marie September 10, 2015, 1:30 pm

      As an additional note, I am not against the notion of limiting gas consumption – up until I became pregnant (at which point it became inadvisable), I rode a motorcycle because I could get 50+mpg, and before that, I was riding my bicycle 27 miles to work, driving the car home, driving the car in next day, riding the bike home, etc (hadn’t quite worked up to the time & endurance involved to ride both ways!). My mom bought me the motorcycle because she didn’t like me riding the bicycle 16 miles on a fairly busy shoulder-less county road on which everyone drives too fast…

  • Robin September 23, 2015, 8:58 am

    Tim Ferris sent me to you. Just reading your blog about gas prices. Here in France today (2015) we pay 1.12 euro per litre for diesel and 1.25 euro per litre for gas. Thats 5.04 euro per gallon diesel and 5.63 per gallon gas.
    dollar/euro is about 1.12/1 = so we pay $5.64 gallon diesel and $6.30 gallon for gas.
    My UK friends pay about £1.10 per litre for either £4.95 per gallon = $7.55 per gallon
    Fuel taxes do work – I use the train for most of my long distance commuting for work especially where the motorways from home to Paris also cost me 30 euros in tolls each way for a 4 hour journey.

  • Candace September 7, 2016, 10:07 pm

    Love this post!

    I notice your comment about putting the money back into education etc. While this is an awesome point, I highly highly recommend the book The Smartest Kids In the World by Amanda Ripley. A must read- especially since you have a son in school :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 8, 2016, 7:03 am

      Thanks Candace – I am just about to start reading that Amanda Ripley book. I appreciate the recommendation!

  • Jon January 11, 2017, 6:08 am

    A must read for any Canadian complaining about carbon taxes.

  • Nathan February 22, 2017, 10:59 am

    While I dislike the sheer quantity of what we ship by semi, and think that it would be much better to ship things long distance by train (or not at all), there are some interesting things happening with truck shipping these days.

    Some of the carriers are limiting the speeds of their fleets electronically, and there are the various shrouds for underneath the trailer, on the back of the trailer, and even on the wheels to reduce drag. The effectiveness of these things vary, but I’ve seen reports of individual mods giving anywhere from 1-5% better fuel economy. While I would never describe them as aerodynamic, some of the newer semis are at least less of a flat wall of steel pushing against the air.

  • Elizabeth July 6, 2017, 10:57 am

    Do you have any articles on motorcycles…? Everything I have seen so far is focused on cars, which are 4x more expensive easily.

    I carpool frequently and take the motorcycle on Fridays so my wife can do the grocery shopping with the car. We are looking at taking a bicycle maintenance class at the end of this month to learn how to take care of our bikes especially since we both want to start using them more. So, grocery trips might turn into two mile bike rides with the purchase of a trailer (so easy!) and taking dogs to the park would be easy with the trailer too.

    Just wondering if you have any data on switching from a car to a motorcycle. We see purposes for keeping the vehicle, but it mostly sits on standby. I do occasionally drive it for Lyft, but I haven’t seen a realistic cost benefit there either.

    Thanks for the consideration of this comment!

  • Trixie March 12, 2023, 8:20 am

    I use so little gas I forget what side of the car my cap is on. I’d sell it, but it’s paid for and 4 people use it. I work from home, live a block from school, grocery, bank, dentist, etc. in an old fashioned pre-war “planned community” with sidewalks and four way stops. Yep, my prop taxes are high, but I use the social infrastructure so I’m grateful to pay them. Great post, as usual.


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