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Fuel Fix

Unless something drastic happens to reverse the current trend, we will pay more for gasoline this summer than ever before. For those of you who are my age or older, we can remember when a gallon of gas cost less than one dollar; that makes today’s gas prices hard to take.

As a teenager growing up in a small Kentucky town, our major form of entertainment was “riding around.” I remember piling into a car with my friends, driving up to the pump, and collecting change from everyone to fill up the tank, or at least give us enough to cruise for a few hours. Now those pockets full of change wouldn’t get me from my house to work.

Several years ago when I taught American history, one of my favorite projects was to have my students interview someone who lived during the Great Depression. Most of those folks are no longer with us, but I still remember their stories.

Charlie lived up north during the Depression. He and his wife had five children. Food was scarce and so were jobs, so when a man found work he didn’t turn it down, even if it meant riding a bike 20 miles a day. Charlie left his home at daylight, rode his bike 10 miles, worked all day, and rode it home again at night.

Several of the people my students interviewed parked their cars for the duration of the Depression and walked or rode horses instead.

I’m not too crazy about the idea of parking my car. I couldn’t ride a bike more than a mile before I either fell off or developed leg cramps, and I’m scared of horses, but every time I stop to fill up my car I can’t help but wonder why it is that a country as great as ours can’t produce cars that will run on something other than gasoline?

If Brazil can operate its cars more efficiently and cheaper with ethanol, why can’t we? If Willie Nelson can use biodiesel and help American farmers out at the same time, why can’t we?

The cheap gas prices I remember from the ’70s are like my disco dresses and Elvis: they’re gone and they aren’t coming back. It’s time to look to the future and move forward—preferably on something that isn’t powered by gas.

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