I've written in the past about how higher gas prices may be the best imaginable way for us to truly conserve natural resources, drive energy innovation, and improve our environment. While our presidential candidates argue about something so small as drilling off Florida, challenging gas prices are working their magic.
Now, Ryan Jones points to a study that shows high gas prices might help solve our obesity crisis as well. Ryan's personal experience as an American living in Europe is that bike riding and walking seems more prevalent due to even more expensive gas abroad. And obesity rates are lower than the U.S. Further, BusinessWeek reports that in 2007 Germany's economy expanded 2.6%, while it used 5.6% less energy.
A recent article in Wired highlights a study by Charles Courtemanche, an assistant economics professor at the University of North Carolina - Greensboro. His study looks back at historic data to see a link between cheap gas and higher obesity. He then predicts that a "$1 increase in the price of gasoline could cut the obesity rate by 10%, saving 16,000 lives and $17 billion in health care costs each year." The logic is that people walk or take bikes more often, and cut back on eating out (where much of the fare is poor).
I think there could be other unusual benefits from the challenge of high gas prices. Here's a quick brainstorm:
- Families form tighter bonds, since they at home together more often.
- People abandon suburban sprawl and move back into the cities, leading to an improvement in neighborhoods and schools.
- Fewer deaths and injuries due to car accidents
- Greater investment in city parks, sidewalks and bike paths
- Fewer wars and less power to Mideast dictators
BusinessWeek has a cover story this week suggesting that America set a price floor for oil. It might seem crazy, but our country's choice to challenge ourselves via high oil prices may help us be more competitive and innovative in the long-term race to become energy efficient and environmentally sustainable. Maybe rising gas prices will even help us avoid the fate of the world of Wall-E :)