Problem Solving Essay
Hybrids and Flexible Fuel Tanks: The Solution to Rising Gas Prices in the US
“With the high gas prices, a lot of people are getting hit in the pocketbook,” said Jason Toews, a concerned Colorado citizen in Will Shanley’s article, “Rocketing gas prices have some Denver-area motorists hunting for bargains” (qtd. in Shanley). The national average for gasoline is at an all time high. The price of gas is seemingly the biggest problem facing our economy today and will remain a problem into next year. The heightened cost of gas is negatively affecting our nation and the daily routines of Americans, which will result in an overall inflation of our economy, unless we substitute our current automobiles with hybrid cars and flexible-fuel tanks using ethanol or methanol. Economists say the U.S. utilizes about three-fourths of the world’s natural resources, with the majority being crude oil. Tammy Joyner, author of “Rising gas prices make drivers rethink spending habits” states that “The Chinese, with the biggest population in the world, have become the second-largest oil consumers on the planet as their economy continues to boom, putting stress on the oil supply” (Joyner). Tammy also relates how the war in Iraq has almost shut down its production of oil (Joyner). It is almost inevitable that between China’s rapid growing economy and the war in Iraq there will be a continued rise in the price of gasoline in the United States.
Ike Wilson, the author of “Md. Area businesses feel pinch as gas prices keep rising”
states that “From trucking firms, rental car companies to florists and pizza deliveries, the high price of fuel is affecting many operations” (Wilson). Wilson claims the increasing gas prices are causing businesses nationwide to add extra charges to offer services and still make profit. He tells how national pizza chains, including Pizza Hut and Domino’s, have placed fuel surcharges on their deliveries (Wilson). People do not want, nor have the funds, to pay the extra money to compensate for the high cost of fuel paid by the drivers. Tavio Headley, staff economist for the American trucking Association, relates that “Fuel represents one of the largest operating expenses in the trucking industry” (qtd. in Wilson). Many companies believe the price of goods in stores will rise because of the higher cost of delivery. Ms. Tarr, a concerned citizen, complains “Everything is going up, not just gas. I just wish people’s salaries were going up as much; poor people just can’t get a break” (qtd. in Wilson). Middle to lower class families are having a hard time keeping up with inflation when their salary remains the same.
Tammy Joyner explains that “Each time the dollars-and-cents dials roll higher on the gas pump, lifestyles and spending habits can take decisive and irreversible turns” (Joyner). Joyner states that these decisions can be life-altering, from changing jobs, to not buying soda and chips with a purchase of gas (Joyner). Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, relates that “If you’re looking at wages falling behind inflation and trying to pay childcare, health care, and put something away for college, this is going to impinge on your living standards” (qtd. in Joyner). Many people do not make enough money to support the high cost of gas and will have to sit at home much more often. Valeri Dunn, a citizen debating taking on a second job, explains “I’m just not able to have extra money because I have to spend it all on gas” (qtd. in Joyner). Some families have to cancel their vacations plans due to gas prices and also have much less money to spend on entertainment. Dennis Cauchon, author of “Gas prices jeopardize road projects,” states that “Rising gas prices are threatening efforts in a dozen states to raise money for road and bridge repairs by increasing gas taxes” (Cauchon). If state officials do not add more tax onto gas prices there may not be enough money for needed road improvements. Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels argues “Gas prices are just too high right now to add to them” (qtd. in Cauchon). Petroleum is used in every aspect of road repair, which is why it is costing states so much money. Serji Amirkhanian, professor of civil engineering at Clemson University, states “Everything really directly or indirectly is related to the price of gas. It’s a domino effect” (qtd. in Lundeen). The increase in gas prices has led many people to explore other options argues Deborah Willoughby in her article “City suffering gas pains” (Willoughby). Either the price of gas needs to decrease or America needs to come up with a fuel replacement. Critics have projected several solutions to solving the problem of high gas prices. One proposed solution is to use alternatives such as hybrid cars or flexible fuel tanks that are mainly powered by ethanol or methanol. In Farid Zakaria’s article, “Imagine: 500 Miles Per Gallon,” he states that “Hybrid technology is the answer to the petroleum problem” (Zakaria). Phoebe Sweet states in her article, “They saw the future about 25 years go, ” that hybrid cars are already available to Americans such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and those by Ford, but there is a waiting list (Sweet). They rely on battery power and a small amount of petroleum. Hybrids presently get about fifty miles per gallon. Daimler Chrysler will soon be unveiling a car with a rechargeable battery, which is estimated to get about seventy-five miles per gallon (Zakaria). This is a drastic change in the number of miles most vehicles are currently getting per gallon.
Zakaria further argues “Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of fifteen percent petroleum and eighty-five percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline” (Zakaria). The author of “For national security, cut use of foreign oil,” argues that Iowa is America’s top producer of ethanol made from corn. The author states that “Large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol, made from cornstalks, straw and other fibrous plant material, would require less energy for cultivation and allow co-production of electricity” (For National Security). The other possible partial petroleum replacement is methanol which comes from natural gas or coal (Boot).
Another solution is the purchase of more fuel-efficient cars in order to get more miles per gallon; people need to trade in their sports utility vehicles, also known as SUVs. Harry Burkett states that “We can stop buying gas or start buying more fuel efficient cars” (qtd. in Willoughby). Burkett is one of the many Americans who has traded in his SUV, which only got about eight to nine miles to the gallon, for a smaller car that gets about twenty-one to twenty-two miles per gallon.
Many argue in favor of using public transportation and carpooling to boycott the purchase of gas. By boycotting gas, states will see the lowered demand for it and will therefore be forced to lower their prices. Some people who are carpooling, are not intentionally boycotting the purchase of gas, they simply can not afford to buy it regularly. Kacie Mixon states “We are carpooling together to work, making sure that we are doing all of our errands in one trip rather than doing a lot of run-outs” (qtd. in Willoughby). Mixon’s family even went to the extent of selling their house to move to the other side of town where they would be able to walk to work everyday instead of driving. Moving is not an option for most and is a fairly extreme measure.
Looking at the possible solutions to the high gasoline prices, a combination of flexible-fuel tanks and hybrid cars seems to be the only one with real prospective. Carpooling is often hard to coordinate and driving less frequently might not always be an option. Downsizing to a car from an SUV is a big step for many people. Others simply can not downscale because of their occupation. Willoughby points to realtors who need big cars to transport clients around to look at real estate. “You can’t fit a family of four comfortably in a small car. Small cars aren’t as Realtor-friendly”, says Stone, a general manager at ERA Weeks & Browning (qtd. in Willoughby).
As stated earlier, flexible-fuel tanks would be able to get 400 – 500 miles per gallon of gasoline and a hybrid car can get seventy-five miles per gallon. This kind of fuel efficiency makes it much more attractive for people to switch from their current vehicle. Zakaria points out other benefits of using less gasoline, such as emitting far fewer carbon-dioxide fumes and not being near as reliant on foreign countries (Zakaria). By switching to hybrid cars and flexible-fuel tanks, we will secure a better environment, both ecologically and politically.
In Max Boot’s article “The 500-Mile-Per-Gallon Solution, High-tech cars, Arctic drilling, new gas taxes: We must have the will to do it all.” he quotes the group, Set America Free, for saying that changing to hybrid cars and flexible-fuel tanks would cost a total of $12 billion over the next four years (qtd. in Boot). This is less than 0.2% of the 2003 United States’ GDP. Set America Free proposes that the money comes from an added tax on gasoline, which will still be somewhat needed after the change (qtd. in Boot). This tax increase would have only a minor effect on the average American. In the beginning, the enormous amount of gas used would keep the added tax to a minimum and when people start to use flexible fuel tanks the use of gas will be so small that a raise in taxation would be unnoticeable. The switch of regular cars to hybrids and petroleum to ethanol or methanol fuel would, according to Set America Free, lower America’s oil imports by two-thirds (qtd. in Boot). This would also make the US much less dependent on other countries, in particular the middle-east, says Boot, since they control two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. Making the middle-east less important strategically gives them less power in the world (Boot). Americans are facing a very serious problem because the US is very dependent on increasingly lower oil supply, making gas prices higher. The increased costs affect every American by making products more expensive due to higher transportation expenses, which will potentially cause inflation. Many blame the rising gas prices on China’s escalating demand for petroleum and the fact that the war in Iraq has almost shut down Iraq’s oil production. Some of the proposed solutions are a shift to more fuel efficient cars and carpooling, but the best answer is to use hybrid cars and flexible-fuel tanks. This would lower the American oil import by two-thirds, making the US much less dependent on the rest of the world and also result in a much lower emission of carbon-dioxide. In other words, a shift to hybrid cars and flexible-fuel tanks is the only way to save our economy and our environment.
Boot, Max. “The 500-Mile-Per-Gallon Solution, High-tech cars, Arctic drilling, new gas taxes:
We must have the will to do it all.” Los Angeles Times 24 March (2005): NewsBank. InfoWeb. UNCC library, Charlotte, NC. 18 April 2005.
Cauchon, Dennis. “Gas prices jeopardize road projects.” USA Today (2005). Academic Search Elite. EBSCOHOST. Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 12 Apr 2005.
“For National Security, Cut Use of Foreign Oil.” The Des Moines Register. 11 April 2005:
NewsBank. InfoWeb. UNCC library, Charlotte, NC. 25 April 2005.
Joyner, Tammy. “Rising gas prices make drivers rethink spending habits.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2005). InfoTrac OneFile. GALE. Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 12 Apr 2005.
Lundeen, Nan. “Road Funds Expected.” The Greenville News 29 March (2005): NewsBank.
InfoWeb. UNCC library, Charlotte, NC. 13 April 2005.
Shanley, Will. “Rocketing gas prices have some Denver-area motorists hunting for bargains.” The Denver Post (2005). InfoTrac OneFile. GALE. Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 12 Apr 2005.
Sweet, Phoebe. "They saw the future about 25 years ago." Reading Eagle. 11 April 2005. Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 16 Apr 2005. <http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&an=2W60685498655>
Willoughby, Deborah. "City suffering gas pains." Montgomery Advertiser. 26 March 2005. . Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 16 Apr 2005. <http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&an=2W63781666837>
Wilson, Ike. “Md. Area businesses feel pinch as gas prices keep rising.” The Frederick News-Post (2005). InfoTrac OneFile. GALE. Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 12 Apr 2005.
Zakaria, Fareed. "Imagine: 500 Miles Per Gallon." Newsweek 145 (2005). Academic Search Elite. EBSCOHOST. Atkins Library, UNCC, Charlotte, NC. 16 Apr 2005. <http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&an=16253621>.