Over at Crooked Timber, Maria posts and entry titled Myths about America. As I talked to my mom on the phone this morning about outrageous gas prices, I mentioned that I had read this post, which points out that European gas prices have always been nearly twice what Americans pay.
Because gas has always been affordable to me, it has never occurred to me that I should live near (ie within walking, biking or even public bus distance) where I work and shop. In fact, as B and I have “grown up,” we’ve slowly moved away from urban areas, giving primacy to things like yards big enough for decent gardens, space for the kids to play, little traffic, etc.
We are fortunate that our current home is in a small village that sports a little market, library, post office, hardware, and elementary school all within walking distance. But one of the schools I’m teaching for this semester is over 40 miles away. There is no bus I can take, there is no car pool, no metro, and sadly, I cannot walk, or even run to get there. And I must work. And I must pay 3.50 a gallon to do so.
I feel somehow buoyed by this. Now, hopefully, we Americans will start doing what we should have been doing all along: conserving our resources AND start thinking hard about alternative energy.
When I travel into town to the big grocery store to shop, I call my neighbor to see if she’d like to ride in with me or if I can grab her something while I’m out. When any trip is planned, we work extra hard to consolidate purposes. I am less likely to “run into town” to pick up one or two things for dinner and more likely to be creative with what I’ve got in the cupboard. I’m more apt to plan ahead; when we were out yesterday, I got supplies for our first Girl Scout meeting next week (normally I’d wait until the day before). Etc.
Most exciting, though, is B’s ramped up research on vegie diesel. Our boiler that heats our house and our water right now runs on “fuel oil,” which is the same as diesel fuel (without the road taxes built into the price). When we ran out last winter because they had delivered fuel to our old address, B ran down to the gas station and bought a few gallons of diesel to hold us until they could send us a truck out. (I had no idea it was the same stuff.)
He’s found plans online for building a vegie boiler. It’s either that or put one of the several wood stoves from the garage into the house. Personally, I’m pulling for the vegie boiler, because I’ve heated with wood before. While it’s warm and dry (line drying clothes in a room heated with a woodstove is sometimes faster than using a conventionall dryer), it’s also dusty, labor intensive, ashy, you have to get up in the middle of the night to feed it, dusty, dirty, and hard work. Did I mention it’s messy? And hard work?
I’ve seen this man take an engine from a Subaru Legacy and put it into a Vanagon. I’ve seen him plan and build a strawbale cabin. I’ve seen him bake amazing bread. I’ve seen him build computers for gifts. I’ve seen him pry open a computer he’s never been inside before, spot the tiny part that needs replaced, and replace it. I’ve seen him fix plumbing, install dishwashers, wire electrical outlets, build puppet show stages.
He delivered Jackson, our second child, who came before the midwife arrived.
In short, I’m convinced that anything he puts his mind to, he can pretty much do. And while my house might smell a little like french fries cooking this winter, I’m excited.
And I don’t think I’ll be complaining too much about gas prices. Too much.