With Gas Over $4 Per Gallon, Are You Ready to Rebel Yet?

We’ve been preaching energy-efficient growth and development for years now, and we’ve remained stuck on the margins of public opinion. But now, with gasoline prices zooming past $4 per gallon, people are waking up. Oh, yes. Oh, yes, they are. When the Wall Street Journal runs a story on the front page, “With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore, Whether It’s Smart to Be Dense,” highlighting San Diego’s move to smart growth, you know the idea has gone mainstream. (Hat tips: Gay Leahy and Gregory Pimentel.)

So, whatta you going to do? Read a Johnny Come Lately like the Journal and think you’ve got it all figured out? Or read the latest edition of Bacon’s Rebellion, where we’ve been wrestling with these issues in a Virginia context, practically since the first cave men decided that cave life was too confining, camped in the plains, and got eaten by a saber-tooth tiger?

Here’s what we have to offer in the July 7, 2008, edition:

The City of Squares
The historical core of Savannah, Ga., is one of the great urban places in the United States. Modern-day Virginia could learn a few lessons from James Ogilthorpe’s unique experiment.
by James A. Bacon

The Wealth Gap
Sooner or later, an economy built on wildly unequal incomes, cheap energy and debt-fueled mass over-consumption will collapse. Mass denial will not change this reality.
by EM Risse

Let the People Decide
It’s time to fish or cut bait on the gas tax. Either pass a tax increase to pay for transportation projects or take it off the table so we can pursue other options.
by Michael Thompson

Bread and Circuses
Governments dispense money for ends that the Constitution never envisioned. One way or another, we’re all on the dole now.
by Norman Leahy

Bubba Believes in Religion
(and other true facts)
by Barnie Day

Nice & Curious Questions
Running in Virginia: Triathlons, Duathlons, Adventure Races and More
by Edwin S. Clay III and Patricia Bangs

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “My social life now consists of four neighbors up and down the street,”

    Well, I’m sold.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “Paul Krugman cites a study (by Nuno Limão and Anthony J. Venables) that deals with transport costs and geography as factors determining trade. It implies that a doubling of fuel costs will contract trade by 45%. Current fuel price hikes if sustained would reduce trade by 17%. “

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “Sacramento has become one of the nation’s most-watched experiments in whether urban planning can help solve everything from high fuel prices to the housing bust to global warming.”

    Let me know when the results of this experiment are in. A recent study of 28 cities showed that the average homeowner saved a dollar in housing costs for each $0.77 cents. As housing prices decline in the more remote aeas, there isn’t any indication that ratio will change, and a 30% ROI is hardly what you would call irrational.



    “In Houston, the cost of transportation is the No. 1 household expense, above shelter.”

    But that’s in part because Houstonians spend a lower than average proportion of their take-home pay on housing.

    And that’s the trade-off.

    The percent of household income Houstonians spend on transportation may be the highest in the country, but when combined with the amount residents spend on housing expenses, Houston’s aggregate cost ranks them 14th, with the composite cost equaling 52% of household income.

    Transit costs are high because Houston has few policies hindering sprawl, which in turn allows for cheaper housing. In San Francisco, which is much more dense and has more prohibitive zoning laws than Houston, residents rank 22nd in commute costs but fifth in the combination of housing and transportation. “

    Forbes Magazine

  4. I am not ready to rebel (not over gas prices, any way). An extra $60 per month in gasoline is a small price to pay for freedom.

    I’ll pay $60 a month to decide where I go and when, so that I would not depend on government-subsidized bus service or have to walk in the blistering heat (or snow) toward the services that the central planning committee deemed essential.

    “This would not be the place to live if you’re married with kids, or if boisterous voices outside keep you up at night.”

    Indeed. I’ll also pay $60 a month not to be murdered. Savannah’s murder rate is 2.83x the national average, and most other serious crimes are higher than average. Stats. Not that this is any different from every other urban utopia.

    I do like the point about the grid system being superior to suburbs w/ connector roads. Grids still have other problems. They invite nitwits to demand “traffic calming” so that they can avoid teaching their precious snowflakes not to play in the middle of the road.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    “What do we mean by “Draconian change?” Something like this:

    Abandon the McMansion, the three Autonomobiles, the two jobs, the beach place and almost all the stuff. Move the Household to a camper on land along a stream in West Virginia. Perhaps this is land that was purchased for a retreat / retirement home. Starting preparing the land for a subsistence, off-the-grid farm.

    This is not impossible. Helen and Scott Nearing did it in Vermont (and again in Maine) but it will be a draconian change for most citizens who, if given a knife, a match and a live chicken, would go hungry.

    That is alright because this option will be open to only a small percentage of the current population.”


    Helen and Scott Nearing came from comfortable families: they had money to “sustain the ride”. Calling their ocean front farm sustainable is a joke similar to calling Ayrshire Farm sustainable.

    What about everyone else? What is the sustainable vision for people living 10 dwelling units to the acre, or more?


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    If you move to save money on gas, it is probably a bad economic decision unless you have a really long commute and a really inefficient car (which you keep once you have moved). Then you have to figure in the cost of sending your kids to private school, and all the other issues.

    For many people, Bob is right: $60 dollars in gas is still cheap.


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I agree that the downtown, touristy parts of Savannah are dripping in Southern charm and the 18th century city plan looks good today, but consider the city beyond all those pretty squares with live oaks draped with Spanish moss.
    Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson notes that Savannah’s poverty rate is from 22 to 27 percent and some districts report a poverty rate of 40 percent. In 1999, Savannah’s homicide rate was six times that of New York City.
    Old South aside, these aren’t stats I’d want to brag about.

    Peter Galuszka

  8. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Before I forget:

    Barnie’s “Bubba” column is one of his best to date.

    Welcome back Barnie.

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