Gas-greedy America needs a day off

By Adam Kotlarczyk

So it’s come to this: Gas supply in America is so short that schools are closing.

After Hurricane Katrina damaged Gulf Coast refineries, and with Hurricane Rita threatening to do more last weekend, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue asked schools to close for two days, to hedge against possible fuel shortages.

Perdue estimated keeping school buses off the roads would save 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel each day, and an “undetermined amount” of regular fuel could be saved by keeping teachers and school staff home.

So Monday and Tuesday, many of Georgia’s schoolchildren enjoyed something they probably don’t get too many of in Georgia – a “snow day.”

This angered some parents who had to scramble for day care. Other people, like the state’s Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn, felt it reflected poor priorities. Kahn told CNN “The first thing [Perdue] decided to do was close schools. That shows something about his views on education and his priorities.”

But Pres. Bush praised Perdue’s effort, saying he “showed some leadership” in “anticipating a problem.” Even the superintendent of schools agreed, saying, “Unprecedented events call for unprecedented response.”

If I’d realized conservation meant cutting school, I’d have gotten on the environmental bandwagon years ago. Now that I understand, though, I firmly believe the NIU community should be doing its part, too. Especially with gas prices so high. So I have five “unprecedented responses” of my own.

First, clearly we need more days off from school. It’s part of eco-conscious conservation, after all. Think of how much fuel we could save just by making the difficult choice to sacrifice a few days of education. For that reason, I propose cutting January and February and the first half of March from the school calendar.

Second, let’s be honest. Driving to see a long-distance boyfriend/girlfriend uses a lot of gas. And, as many an ex-girlfriend has pointed out to me, it’s just not worth it. So I propose breaking off any relationship that involves commuting more than 50 miles. If he or she starts crying when you say it’s over, just quote the President, and tell her “Honey, I’m just ‘showing some leadership’ and ‘anticipating a problem.’ You’ll thank me for this one day.”

Third, we can drive more environmentally friendly vehicles – this will conserve gas without giving up driving. So when mom and dad pick out your car for the year, opt for the fuel-efficient BMW, not the Hummer or the Escalade. I know, I know, the Bimmer doesn’t look as good with tinted windows and chrome wheels, but hey, we’re all asked to make sacrifices here.

Fourth, we can model our fuel consumption after the neo-conservative, supply-side economic policy we use now. To that end, we should give fuel only to those who already have a lot. Gas will then “trickle down” to the rest of us. We can only hope this policy does for fuel what the economic version has done for the national deficit.

Fifth, and finally, the White House recently announced it will cut the size of the presidential motorcade – which can number more than 20 vehicles – in order to conserve energy. What’s good enough for the president of the United States ought to be good enough for the president of NIU. So President Peters, we hereby demand you reduce the size of your ostentatious motorcade. Let’s try to keep it around six vehicles or so.

With these new policies in place, NIU can take its rightful place at the forefront of energy conservation and serve as a model institution for other universities around the world. If not, maybe we can cut November from the school calendar, too.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.