Oil Addiction And Spam Musubi

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - May 07, 2008
| Del.icio.us

A friend of mine commutes daily to his job on Maui. Last week he complained that he couldn’t find his favorite Spam musubi at the 7-Eleven in Kahului. He eats one every day around 1:30 p.m., a couple of hours before he catches his flight back to Honolulu.

“That musubi is the right thing at just the right time of day for me,” he said. But last week, there was none to be found.

“Apparently, they come from Honolulu, and with the closing of Aloha’s cargo flights the Maui 7-Eleven wasn’t getting its musubi.”

Which is, of course, the least of Maui’s - and all the islands’ - problems with the shutdown of Aloha cargo. Farmers - from flower growers to papaya producers and everything perishable in between - are scrambling to find reasonably priced space to ship their products.

Hawaiian Air hasn’t enough cargo capacity to fill the void, and water transport - the Superferry or Young Brothers’barges - are either too slow or too few to make up the difference.

And suddenly Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Mufi Hannemann sound prescient. In her defense earlier this year for expediting the Superferry, Lingle spoke of the need to provide a transportation alternative for airline travel between islands.

Some of us - “Harrumph, harrumph” - scoffed. But with the demise of Aloha Airlines and Mesa’s precarious financial condition, the Superferry begins to look - rough water cancellations and mechanical problems notwithstanding - increasingly good.

Then there’s the mayor and his effort to build a train. Some on the City Council appear to be losing their nerve, and rail opponents are circulating petitions to put the issue on the ballot this fall, all while the price of gasoline continues to skyrocket, seemingly by the hour.

Another buddy of mine, who drives a slightly larger and decidedly more upscale car than I, was also complaining last week. “I have to put premium gas in that car of mine,” he said. “Do you know what that’s costing me? $75 to fill it up. $75!” And his car is an old-fashioned four-door sedan - no gas-guzzling SUV.

Now I don’t expect to see my luxury-car-driving friend taking the bus soon. But as the price of regular on Honolulu edges toward $4 per gallon, I’m certainly thinking about it. And if the mayor gets his train, I’ll ride it.

We all will. Hannemann has always argued that he’s not building for today, but for 10, 20, 30 years from now when - guaranteed, fellow car owners of mine - the price of gasoline for the commuters of that generation will be far, far higher than the $3-some-thin’-somethin’ we’re paying today.

Next time you fill up your car’s gas tank, check the price-per-gallon and you’ll realize that 10, 20, 30 years from now is far closer than you think.

The price of oil is getting us. It got Aloha Airlines. It’s getting us at the gas pump. It’s reaching into our wallets at the supermarket.

A few years ago, a third friend of mine lambasted me for writing that George W. Bush’s Iraq war was all about oil. I may have overstated, but it was certainly as much - and probably more - about oil as it was about non-existent weapons of mass destruction or giving Iraqis the gift of democracy or destroying the then non-existent “al Qaeda in Iraq.”

We were in 2003, at the outset of the Iraq war, prisoners of our national addiction to oil - as we were in 1990 when George H.W. took us to war in Iraq because of that country’s invasion of a sovereign Kuwait. Of course, that was the reason. And five years and another ongoing war later, we remain addicted.

Which brings me to another friend - an Obamamaniac - who told me recently that Hawaii’s current economic uncertainty had at least kept his mind off the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s ravings and the accompanying sound of air escaping from Obama campaign balloons.

Not so fast. Last week Obama sounded more presidential than his Republican and Democratic opponents combined, and my guess is that the American people, from Kennebunkport to Kahului, are smart enough to recognize it. While John McCain and Hillary Clinton, shamelessly pandering to us - you, me, and every other oil-addicted American - by calling for a summer holiday in 18-plus cents per gallon in federal gas taxes, Obama demurred.

He pointed out that such a holiday would save each of us, over the course of three months, $30, while putting off another inconvenient truth: That we must find alternatives and end our addiction to oil. Like his fellow public servants from Hawaii, Ms. Lingle and Mr. Hannemann, the young man understands the need for alternatives.

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