Madison County Opinion...

AUGUST 25, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
August 25, 2004

Frankly Speaking

It is up to us to control gas prices
The latest predictions suggest that gas prices will reach $3 per gallon by next year. Everyone is looking around for someone to blame for this boost in gasoline prices. Some of you want to blame the radical Muslims in the Middle East. Others blame the president, the vice president and the big oil companies.
You are all wrong. The price of gasoline and other oil products is driven by supply and demand. Anytime we demand more of a product than is available, the price goes up. That is a basic rule of economics.
The world supply of oil is limited. There is only so much oil to be had. For generations, most of the demand for that oil was in North America. As long as that was true, supply was able to keep up with demand.
Our use of oil is so large that we have to import at least 60 percent of our needs. This dependence on foreign oil not only puts us at the mercy of foreign oil producers, it is adding greatly to our balance of payments deficit problems
Today, with expanding economies in India and China, the demand has outpaced the supply. These two nations are the most heavily populated in the world.
As they experience economic growth, more and more of these people want cars, and cars burn gas. We can no longer obtain oil at a favorable price because these growing nations are out bidding us.
So how can we avoid these gasoline price increases? We have two choices. We have to find more oil here, or quit using so much. All the easy oil has already been found. Finding more, even if it is here, will cost more and the problem will continue.
The only practical answer is to reduce demand. That is something you and I can do. We can use less gasoline.
You have heard all the suggestions before. Keep your tires properly inflated. Pretend you have a raw egg under your foot. Carpool when possible. Plan you activities so that you do several things on each trip. Seek out more fuel efficient cars. Walk more and drive less.
As long as we insist on unlimited use of oil in this country, we will be helping drive the cost of energy constantly higher. To keep the price down, we have to limit our demand for oil. The president or vice president can’t do that. If they try, it would assure their defeat in the next election. Congress cannot do it, the same thing would happen. Big business can’t do it. If one of them tries, we will simply move our business to the one willing to supply us.
The answer is simple. If we want to control the price of gasoline, we have to use less of it. It is not up to businessmen or politicians. It is up to us.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
August 25, 2004

In the Meantime

The strange acceleration of time
Fed up one day with the seeming never-endingness of childhood, I declared myself an adult as my father and I rode home. He laughed.
“No, you’re not. You’re ten.”
“Why can’t that be considered an adult?”
“Well, it just can’t.”
I was angry. Eternity was some sort of cousin to fifth grade — at least I felt like the two were on the same endless branch of a family tree.
And I felt suspicious of this golden privilege of “adulthood” that I’d supposedly one day reach. Grownups tell children that “one day you’ll be an adult and then you can do it your way,” but as a kid, I remember questioning the truth in that, feeling that, in fact, time stood still, unchanging as grade school. I was what I was, a kid, as I would always be.
It’s strange to recall that hopeless feeling of being trapped in an eternal fifth grade, the idea that I’d never get beyond bookbags, homework and meal money.
Because two decades have since passed in a blur. And somewhere in those years, I got my wish, eventually crossing the line into adulthood.
Perhaps that status comes with graduation, a first vote, or a first “yes, sir” directed at you, not from you. But no particular event of my adulthood has made me “feel like a grownup.”
No, it’s the big events in other people’s lives that have more of an impact, the thought that so and so is already graduating, getting married, having a baby.
Being a grownup comes with those constant reminders that yet another year has passed, the shock that I feel when I realize that I’ve stood on a football field with a camera for nine years now, or the surprise that I feel when a familiar name from Little League ball is in a college announcement.
“UGA students keep looking younger and younger,” I said to my dad not long ago, noting how I feel older and older when I venture onto the college campus.
“Yeah, well, it only gets worse,” he said, with quick-wit melancholy.
Perhaps the acceleration of years shouldn’t surprise any of us. We know that as we grow older each year becomes a smaller fraction of our life. For instance, a year represents 10 percent of a 10-year-old’s life, two percent of a 50 year-old’s existence and only one percent of a 100-year-old’s time on the planet. Doesn’t it make sense then, for years to seem shorter and shorter in the context of our lives?
I read an interesting article by physician Oliver Sacks in The New Yorker this past week about our perception of time. The author quotes the famous psychologist William James, who contends that the same span of time may seem entirely different for different creatures.
“Suppose we were able, within the length of a second, to note 10,000 events distinctly, instead of barely 10, as now; if our life were then destined to hold the same number of impressions, it might be 1,000 times as short,” said James. “We should live less than a month, and personally know nothing of the change of seasons.”
In James’ scenario, a life may be shorter, but just as full, because more experience, more impressions, have been packed into a certain amount of time.
It’s interesting to think of butterflies or cats or dogs in this regard. Is such a fullness of experience true for creatures with a shorter lifespan than humans?
In his article, Dr. Sacks also speaks of patients afflicted with neurological disorders, noting that brain injury can lead patients to believe that very little time has passed, when, in fact, hours have ticked off the clock.
He spoke of one patient who would sit in the hallway, motionless for hours “with his right arm often lifted, sometimes an inch or two above his knee, sometimes near his face.”
“When I questioned him about these frozen poses, he asked indignantly, ‘What do you mean, ‘frozen poses’? I was just wiping my nose.’” Sacks took a series of photos over several hours and determined that the patient “was wiping his nose but was doing so a thousand times more slowly than normal.”
We all hear the ticking of the clock, but our perception of such movement is relative to our condition, our age.
And we have a scientific theory that shows us that time itself is not as simple as we think, not necessarily a pure linear movement. It can bend. Einstein showed us that objects travelling at different speeds can observe different times, the theory holding, for instance, that an astronaut who travels at a great speed through space won’t age as quickly as those on earth.
That’s truly mind-boggling stuff.
But you don’t need physics to recognize the perplexing nature of time in our everyday lives.
It surely speeds up for us all. If you don’t see that, then you’re probably in grade school waiting on the bell.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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