Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Higher Gas Price Saving Lives

With gasoline prices in Japan topping 180 per liter (about $6.31 per gallon), it is normal to focus on the negative economic impact and personal inconvenience. But there is a positive side to this.

Fossil fuels are something mankind need to get away from, not only because they are finite resources, but because of the many ways their use damages the environment, from plastics in the ocean to global climate change, they are unhealthy.

Higher prices means lower demand. As the Kurashi poll on gasoline prices showed, people faced with higher prices react by using less.

Another interesting benefit is that traffic deaths and injuries are way down - out of proportion to the drop in traffic. Lets look at some numbers:

According to East Nippon Expressway Co., which covers an area that includes Hokkaido, Tohoku and Kanto, a daily average of 2.34 million vehicles used its expressways in June, down 4.9 percent from a year earlier. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The daily average for West Nippon Expressway Co., which mostly covers the Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions, was 2.19 million vehicles, down 4.1 percent.

Central Nippon Expressway Co., which mostly covers the Tokai and Hokuriku regions, reported a 2.4-percent year-on-year decrease to 1.605 million vehicles.

So expressway traffic is down from 2.4 to 4.9 percent this year. For one thing, this means less pollution, not only because of fewer kilometer driven, but because people are shifting to more efficient rental cars and vans at airports. Car sales have been declining for several years in Japan and the only segment of the market that is growing is for mini cars with 660 cc or smaller engines. So the pollution drop is more than the traffic decline might lead one to believe.

On the safety side, according to an article in The Japan Times,

"The death toll from road accidents during the first half of the year dropped 13.5% from a year before to 2,295, the lowest since statistics were first recorded in 1954, the National Police Agency said Thursday. The number of traffic accidents and injured persons in the first half of this year also declined, by 8.1% to 371,943 and by 8.5% to 458,879, respectively, the NPA said."

That's 42,628 fewer people injured in the first half of the year, and 358 people who are alive today that would have been killed in car crashes during that period.

Next time, take the train.

The transition to a post carbon world won't be easy, but we'll have a cleaner environment and fewer accident victims.

Walk, ride a bicycle, use public transportation.

1 comment:

tornadoes28 said...

I actually hope that gas prices stay relatively high. If it is economics that finally get more people out of their cars or at leats using fuel efficient cars, then that is a good thing.