Gas pain relief

In a way, it’s a shame that the latest plan to buy us off—that scheme of Frist’s and his minions to give you a hundred bucks so you could turn around and chuck it into the engorged tills of the oil companies—got its ass heckled out of existence in record time. It would have been a complete hoot to see a national movement bloom, a movement of millions of voters who, instead of using their checks to obediently fill up their Chevy Subdivisions and Isuzu Icebreakers, would have taken that money and donated it directly to the campaigns of Democratic candidates who are foaming up to take back the House and Senate in six months. In the end, even Republicans can’t be too mystified that a blatant plan to rob the national treasury on behalf of Big Oil got shot full of more holes than Sonny Corleone.

Last week, I was broaching the subject of what one can do to alleviate the sting of $3.50 gas when I interrupted myself with news of another issue of vital concern—the insane bill put forth in Congress by total tools of the telecom/cable companies that would completely muck up the Internet. To review, here are your options: You could hitchhike to work (expected national participation rate—0 percent), ride the bus more often (1 percent n.p.r., since buses, for some reason, have been deemed “uncool”), set up a car pool thing with co-workers (2 percent n.p.r. because, let’s face it, riding to work with co-workers is a drag), walk to work (yeah, right), and finally, increase grumbling and crabbing with every $50 to $90 fill-up (approximately 96-98 percent n.p.r.).

There are other options. Namely, two-wheelers. Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and bicycles. All have their upsides and downsides. In the miles per gallon department, they carry a serious upside. Real motorcycles can get anywhere from 25 to 40 mpg. Vespa scooters can easily get 55 to 65 mpg. Bicycles can get you 20 miles down the road on a load of bacon and eggs. But there’s still another real and viable option, especially for those who live within 5 to 7 miles of work and have a smidgen of disposable income. This would be the electric bicycle.

You never hear about them, and yet, if you google “electric bicycles,” you come up with slightly more than 10 million hits. So somebody is not just dreaming out there; somebody is planning and building, and some other bodies are buying.

Electric bikes don’t look stupid or weird. No one would give you a second glance as you cruise down the street at 10 or 15 or even 20 miles an hour. You can pedal it when you want to, and, when you don’t, you can move over, Rover, and let the motor take over. Yes, you have to plug it in to charge the batteries, so it gets its power, ultimately, from Sierra Pacific. But compared to the energy you use to drive around town, it’s a pittance. A brand new electric bike costs $600 to $1,500 bucks. There are also kits for converting an existing bike to battery power. If you’re interested, a good web site to investigate is, where they explain everything and recommend the best bikes from the best companies. They’re out there and easily available, and perhaps their time has finally arrived.