Bill is a long-haul truck driver, plying his trade on the highways of middle America. In my last post about him, I told how he called Earthjustice from his truck, attacking environmentalists for bringing him, and America, to the point of economic ruin.
He ranted in my ear for 5 minutes about me being stupid and un-American for not letting oil companies drill us back to the days of cheap gas. Our national backyard, from Alaska to the coastlines of lower-48, is full of oil, he said – utterly exasperated at my inability to comprehend such common sense.
Actually, I was comprehending plenty as Bill raged. Clearly, I thought, he's just another right wing-bullet, shot our way by some talk show maniac. So, when Bill finally took a breath, the first thing I asked was, which talk show host he listened to.
Bill fell silent.
"I don't listen to those guys," he said, quietly.
Turns out that Bill likes to listen to himself on those long, lonely stretches of road. And lately, he's been muttering about diesel prices skyrocketing. Saudi Arabia is holding us up, he says. If only America was free to drill. And, can you believe it - some people think high fuel prices are good for the planet (The planet? How about America!) by causing less traffic, less consumption, less pollution.
Try telling Bill that less is more when fuel is $5+ a gallon and he has no choice but to pay it. Bike to work? Mass transit? Carpool?
Here's a suggestion – try telling Bill anything just after he put dozens and dozens of diesel gallons into his truck. I know. I tried. He just hollered.
And after awhile I began to hear.
What I heard is the sound that politicians listen for when they're seeking votes, and direction, too. It's the sound of people stung by forces they can't control and can't escape, and probably don't understand. It's the sound of people who want answers, plain and simple. And it's coming from the heartland, where presidential elections are decided.
It occurred to me that Bill, and multitudes more, aren't ready to hear my thoughts on why drilling the homeland will only postpone the inevitable, and won't drive down gas prices. They are ready to hear what the would-be leaders have to say.
The only plain and simple thing I can say is that gas and diesel will never be cheap again no matter how many pockmarks we make in the land. And that's what I told Bill.
Somewhere in America's middle, Bill is hauling goods and no doubt he's talking to himself about the environmentalist who just doesn't get it. I hope he's calmed down enough to call back and continue our conversation. Maybe we can finish comparing notes on the Little League experiences of our 10-year-old sons. Just as ping pong brought China and the U.S. together, maybe baseball will work for Bill and I.
I'll let you know when the phone rings.