News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, May 26, 2008

All the gas about gas

Dennis Jones over in Bath who hosted Hillary Clinton and is one of the owners of Tacoma Park Place is vigorously promoting the return to the 55 mph national speed limit as a way to address the spiraling cost of gasoline.

When the national speed limit was put into effect in 1974 in response to the Arab oil embargo, I was commuting more than 100 miles a day round trip. I did it in a manual shift American Motors Gremlin, mostly driving on I-80 between the Quad-Cities and Iowa City. When the 55 mph limit went into force, the difference in mileage on a gallon of gas was immediately apparent. Where I made three round trips on a tank of gas before the speed limit, I was making four round trips at 55 mph.

At the time I was also working part time with a news organization that operated a fleet of staff cars. After the speed limit was imposed, the fleet manager recorded a significant drop in the amount of gasoline he purchased each month for vehicles that were driven outside the city.

On the national level, the government recorded that the demand for motor fuel stopped increasing and actually declined in some months.

However, the conservative think tanks went right to work producing "studies " to show that the 55 mph speed limit did not save gas nor increase safety on the highways. The government and the insurance industry found the speed restriction effective. But those who chafe at any government intervention on behalf of the people were moved to inventing arguments against it.

Had we learned anything from that episode 32 years ago, we would have power grids for transmitting power from the sun and wind and an array of affordable and dependable energy alternatives. But we let the oil companies and other corporate entities keep charge of managing our energy future.

We were warned about our dependency on oil three decades ago, but we chose the conservative option of letting the corporate world determine our future.

If we people take our country back, perhaps we can declare our inpendence from oil companies.


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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States