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Review:Why are Gas Prices So High

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Book Review

Why Are Gas Prices So High?

By William Bezanson

Trafford Publishing, 2006

ISBN 1-4120-8109-2

Book Review by Mary-Sue Haliburton, Editor, PES Network

Sept. 13, 2006

Consumer Responsibility for Wasteful Lifestyle

Right in tune with this book and not long after I read it, the Canadian Discovery channel broadcast a news story about a couple who were driving around the world trying to set a record of how little fuel they could use. They said they were taking it easy, and mentioned how much gas is wasted by those jackrabbit starts. See video clip at: Even our behaviour as drivers contributes to the oil-business profit level and to shoring up the paradigm under which it holds sway over our whole society and over the economy at large.

Back in the spring of 2006, a scheme going around the internet proposed selectively boycotting certain companies. However, no reduction of consumption overall was either advocated -- or even mentioned. Given that fuel vendors are all in the business together, they are unlikely to lower prices to "compete" with each other, and therefore such a selective-boycott strategy is unlikely to work. The oil profits would merely be spread around differently at the visible level, and at the wholesale level the big suppliers would continue to reap the same profits which provide them with social and political clout.

Because drivers would still be consuming the same amount of gas, such a lame company-boycott notion would mean business as usual for the big dealers who would be laughing at how easy it is to fleece the "sheeple" who don't question their own behaviour.

A Surprising Alternative

Out of left field comes a different approach that is far more likely to be effective. Although this author does not advocate changing the energy paradigm, nor does he discuss new, more efficient technologies, he does take an important foundational step toward this by addressing the one factor in the equation that technological change doesn't tackle: the human being.

Enter William Bezanson, P.Eng., a retired engineer from the Ottawa high-tech industry and a former university engineering professor, as well as being a motivational trainer.

In the late winter of 2006, he invited neighbours, former colleagues, and other contacts to a book-launching party at his home. I attended, and picked up a modest-looking little book with an iconic "planet" illustration floating on a white cover. Even the cover art wasn't that inspiring or dramatic. After seeing those photos of earth from space, we've come to expect that black background. Maybe we're being asked to set aside those sorts of expectations.

I was expecting only some light and soporific bedtime reading. Yawn...

I turned out to be wrong.

The Author's Elevated Paradigm

Why Are Gas Prices So High? does not attempt to change the energy paradigm. What Mr. Bezanson is out to change is nothing less than the human psyche itself.

That's a tall order.

Most of the literature on the subject of polllution, waste, global warming and all such fail to deal effectively with the psychology. Fear-mongering about consequences of not reducing our environmental footprint appears to be their main tactic, and it's not working very well. Even those who talk about reducing consumption have a negative, hair-shirt approach to the subject, focusing on how much we are going have to deprive ourselves. This rightly results in a lot of people indignantly rejecting the idea of cutting back.

Bezanson may have something in his choice of focus: it's within our own minds, and especially in the deep dark depths of that unruly creature the subconscious mind, that all worthwhile change begins -- or it doesn't happen at all. Maybe that's what the white cover is about: bringing a brighter vision into that inner mind. But I digress...

Getting the Math Right

By way of comparison, the selected-target boycott idea stays earthbound. It doesn't even get the math right, as Mr. Bezanson pointed out to me after I forwarded the boycott-advocacy email to him for comment. In an emailed reply, Bezanson remarked, "He/she sure did foul up his calculation. 300 million people, indeed! He totally neglected to require that each person must send messages to ten unique people. Realistically, people ... typically have a large overlap in other people whom they know. So the rapid expansion of population that hears the message would not be nearly as rapid as he/she purports."

That overlap caveat is valid. I got that same boycott message from at least half a dozen people. Not knowing how the target company was chosen or why, I doubted the motivation for this boycott as well the possibility that any result would ever be visible. Therefore I did not send it on -- except to Bezanson to ask for his take on it.

When deciding where buy fuel, most people listen to advertising and collect air miles. Email chain letters will not be posted at the pumps as a reminder of what company not to support -- as if that would make any difference. It won't.

Bezanson's other comment on the selected-target boycott idea was that even if it did slightly lower the price, it would not result in reduced consumption. Therefore, that boycott would have no benefit for the environment, nor would it bring about any rise in social civility or human health.

Frame Story Seems a Bit Weak

At first, the setting may seem to be a bit pedestrian and locality-specific. The frame-story device the author sets up starts with the seemingly-unlikely situation that the protagonist has won the country's highest award for her efforts. Then he returns to the start-point of how this came about: a Canadian family and some of their friends discuss rising gas prices and try to think of ways to get around the problem.

As frame stories go, it's not particularly interesting or inspiring. There are no fully-realized or compelling characters. There's also nothing here for the technically-obsessed about making more efficient engines or adopting a whole new approach to energy, or even cleaner fuels. For those who are "up to speed" on some of the alternatives, these would be seen as a serious shortcomings.

Some of us might be asking why we would bother with this book when it doesn't even have any new gadgets in it.

I wondered this too. Ho hum, I thought -- at first. As I got past the third chapter, however, this book turned out to offer something more than what might be expected when the issue of inherently-wasteful technology is not addressed.

Remember that as a reader, you always have a choice. You can deprive yourself of the benefits of reading this if you are deterred by the mentioned deficiencies. In this case, there's a simple tradeoff: just bypass the frame story.

If you want to cut to the chase, start reading at chapter four.

An Unusually Energizing Reading Experience

From a seemingly simplistic premise that merely slowing down and adopting less wasteful driving habits would reduce consumption, we are launched into an uplifting exploration of how interiorizing change in the psyche first could result in lifestyle changes which can enhance all aspects of our family and social interaction. The ones suggested in the book need not be the only changes undertaken, either. There isn't really a box here in which we are supposed to confine ourselves. The idea of energizing the inner being is open-ended.

The dynamic of experiencing payoffs on the personal, emotional, and financial level is only the start of how this story launches an open-minded reader into the stratosphere. Some intellectual and emotional baggage one is carrying may fall back to earth as the little book transcends its shaky frame story and concept that on superficial grounds seems limited, and limiting.

Like a battery that was running down, after so much study of the political and financial problems holding back the needed change of paradigm, I had been feeling dragged down. That was before reading Why Are Gas Prices So High?, and when I did get into it I was frankly surprised that the core of this book is fuelled by a compelling sense of psychological uplift. Even though the author doesn't address the technical issues -- or maybe even because he stays away from dragging the reader into all this heavy-duty technical slogging -- his book did give me a needed boost. It was an input of hope and somehow the sense of additional energy to keep tackling the issues.

I came away from reading this with a feeling of being re-charged, a feeling that has continued quietly bubbling along under the surface after I have forgotten the details.

I'm not without a basis of comparison. I've read many self-help and psychological books. None was better than this at providing such an ongoing uplift. Some of those other books were entirely forgettable, not giving me anywhere near as much salient effect as reading 'Why Are Gas Prices So High?''.

I can only conclude that I had underestimated this unassuming author when I started out.

Entry Point for Closed Minds

This book may be an entry point for those who are strongly attached to the combustion-energy system for one reason or another, and who have therefore set aside the idea of doing anything to reduce biosphere pollution as not financially viable. Reading Why Are Gas Prices So High? may help to open up for these people a view of a broader horizon -- that big, curved one. That of the planet itself.

This book may stimulate hope and the will to make a difference, whatever technologies are chosen by each individual or country. To some extent, the dominance of Big Oil is so great at the international level that it can deny any choice to whole nations. Please see: for an overview of how the oil business influences international politics. It's logical to feel defeated when faced with such overwhelming entrenched odds.

So an injection of hope and stirring up latent energies in oneself might serve as an antidote.

Why Are Gas Prices So High? should be considered as a possible gift for the nay-sayer in your family who doesn't want to entertain anything but the traditional technology. Such people are a very numerous crowd who can't be wished away.

Something that might create even a slight shift in that mental paradigm is worth trying. Give it a read and see if you agree.

Purchase the Book

Why Are Gas Prices So High? (Paperback) ( Publisher

Author Contact

Email: bezanson {at}


See also


- Reviews - index

- Main Page

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