Editor’s Notes

Pub date June 9, 2010
WriterTim Redmond
SectionEditors Notes


What’s the real price of a gallon of gas? Think about it — because it’s not $3.12, which is what I paid the last time I filled my tank. See, that price didn’t include the gulf oil spill.

Americans use about 130 billion gallons of gas a year. When all is said and done, the cash cost of cleaning up the spill and repairing the economic damage to the coastlines of several states is probably going to exceed $20 billion, whether BP pays it all or not (Florida alone could lose $10 billion a year in tourism if its Gulf Coast beaches are fouled.) That’s an additional 15 cents a gallon. Add in the long-term economic damages, and the incalculable environmental damages, and you’d have to kick up the price another dollar. Which doesn’t even begin to account for the costs of global climate change, the poisoning of the Niger basin, the destruction of large parts of the Amazon, and all the other damage that oil drilling does. Gas is pretty pricey; we just don’t pay for it at the pump.

So it’s infuriating to see Matier and Ross in the June 7 Chronicle saying that electricity from the city’s community choice aggregation program will be more expensive than what we pay now to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (see editorial).

Sticker prices are a lie. That cheap plastic stuff from Walmart costs third world kids their childhood. The price of non-organic strawberries at Safeway doesn’t include the damage pesticides do to the soil, the damage water diversions do to the delta and the fisheries — or the damage nonunion farm workers suffer in the fields.

Economists have all kinds of words for this — externalities, spillover costs — but when I hear that coal energy and Walmart toys are cheaper, the only one I can think of is: bullshit.