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Published: 2008/07/22
by John Whitler

Featured Column: Got What He Wanted (On Gas Prices and Touring)

I was in Alaska for a week in May, had a rental car, and thought it was crazy to be paying over $4.00 for gas. I dont own a car, or have friends that drive very often, so the price creep of gas really hits me and my friends. In mid June I witnessed my first $40.00 fill up and today a coworker had to drive to a work meeting and I witnessed my first $50.00 fill up. I asked, Is it worth it? Both responded, Yes.
Going on tour is a bit out of reach for me these days, but I am certainly curious what the impact of higher gas prices has been on the music industrys summer tour. Ive made it to a couple of shows that required driving, but they were within 25 miles of home. Based on Rothbury and the recent rumor mill, I am trying to imagine a Phish tour with gas prices this high. Would we see $2 grilled cheese instead of $1 grilled cheese? Would there be a bigger shakedown street with more vendors trying to get gas money, or less due to the expense of driving between shows?
Whatever the impact may be, this has certainly highlighted a few key points for me.
Live somewhere that doesnt require you to have a car to meet your basic needs.
Work somewhere that doesnt require you to have a car.
If you have to live and work somewhere that requires a car, drive less, encourage your political leaders to improve public transportation, ride your bike more, combine as many errands as possible into one trip, keep up with your car maintenance which can improve gas mileage, and try to work from home a couple days a week.
If you are going on tour, or just to a single show in your area, try walking, biking, riding the bus or train, or if you have to drive, carpool. The music community is full of like minded people, get to know some in your community and make an effort to ride share if you have to drive.
I havent noticed any obvious impacts to touring schedules, but we may see them soon. Residencies may become more common as bands look to cut down on their own travel. This could be an interesting trade off if a lot of fans converge on a single city, so there may be some advantages to a band traveling versus hundreds or thousands of fans traveling to get to the show.
So what does the future hold? Probably higher and higher gas prices, but there is room to change the way we get our energy. I was lucky enough to hear Al Gore speak on Thursday, July 17th, at Washington DCs, DAR Constitution Hall. Better known to most people as a small/medium sized venue to see a show, Al Gore certainly rocked this audience receiving multiple standing ovations. Gores message was a challenge for the United States to produce 100% of our energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal within the next ten years. This radical shift would also include more plug in hybrid cars, which Gore claimed could be bring the equivalent price of travel to around a dollar a gallon. Investing in these greener technologies is a potential boost to the economy and vital to the future of the planet. See Gores speech and learn more here.
So who is to blame for the situation we are in? Thomas Friedman certainly has his viewpoint, which became one of the most recommended articles on the New York Times website this week. Friedman basically says that rather than trying to break our addiction to fossil fuels, the current administration is trying to make it easier for us to consume them. He makes an interesting analogy stating that we would not try to lower the price of crack to break someones addiction, we would try to get them from using the drug in the first place. Perhaps a bit extreme, but as the current administration claims that opening up more off-shore drilling will lower gas prices, and that the current problem is nothing more than a psychological one, we certainly need someone to set us straight. The bottom line is that the oil companies arent using the current area allotted them for offshore drilling, there is still and Congressional moratorium on new offshore drilling and we wont see any of this new oil for 10 years. Is that going to lower gas prices? I dont think so.
See music. Not too much. Mostly close to home.

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