Allen Wastler Commentary:
Wastler's Wanderings by Allen Wastler Column archive
My feet and my gas bill
There's a solution to this country's problem with gasoline prices, and Airbus has it.

NEW YORK ( - Gasoline is a problem in this country. But take heart, folks ... Airbus inadvertently has offered an answer.

You see, we shouldn't sit in cars ... we should stand in them.

Now in all fairness to Airbus, they aren't pushing the standing idea ... at least not in cars. But there was a New York Times story Tuesday saying the European aircraft maker was floating the idea to some Asia carriers. The article even had a picture of a "standing seat," sort of a strap-on backboard with a small barstool type ledge to hang your derriŤre on. A plane outfitted with such standing seats could carry a lot more people.

Bet you they'd be grumpy though. Who wants to stand through a flight, even a short one? But in terms of the abuses heaped on customers by airlines in general, it's a natural progression.

When we asked Airbus about the story, however, the plane maker vehemently denied the story. You'd expect that. Who wants to be known as the manufacturer that found a better way to engineer customer dissatisfaction?

No, people don't want to stand up when they travel. It's true for planes, trains ... and cars.

Americans spend way too much time driving. That's the reason we're the world's No. 1 consumer of oil ... about 20 million barrels a day, nearly three times more than China.

And why do we drive so much? Well, we don't have a lot in the way of alternative transportation ... trains and mass transit and such. At least not compared to other developed countries.

But the real reason we drive is because we are comfortable doing it. We've got the fancy seats, smooth rides and the stereo systems. It's a home away from home.

Now that home gets expensive when gas prices rise. And so people drive less. The problem is once prices retreat, people are back in that four-wheeled living room, which means the basic problem of high oil consumption will eventually come back.

Of course, a big honking gas tax would fix that. People would use cars less and the extra money raised from the tax could go for nice idealistic things like alternative fuel research and deficit reduction. And we'd have less dependence on foreign countries that hate us, and maybe cleaner air.

But there'd be arguments about how much such a tax weighs on those with lower incomes. Oil and car companies would lobby heavily against it, claiming economic disruption (like car companies don't have that now). And we couldn't trust our government to spend the money wisely.

No, better to ask ... no require ... Detroit et al. to make cars that require everyone to stand up. Watch those unnecessary trips dwindle. And only those with Donald Rumsfeld-like constitutions would be making those long trips to Grandma's.

Yes, better aching feet than a tax.


Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of and appears on CNN's "In the Money." He can be emailed at Top of page

Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.
Manage alerts | What is this?