Making the most of a trip

Robert Reich

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: Whether you're driving, flying, taking the train or staying local, hopefully you're getting away someplace this summer. The Reich Family of northern California is.

Our resident liberal commentator Robert Reich puts his tongue firmly in cheek and offers these thoughts.


Robert Reich: Most of our summer vacation will be short weekend trips near home. We're economizing, and we tell ourselves by not using all that fuel for travel we're helping the environment.

One trip will require air travel though, and apparently, the airline is charging extra for carry-on bags. And considering additional charges for especially heavy checked baggage. It says the fees are necessary because the extra weight requires additional fuel. Economists would approve. Heavy bags and suitcases add to the cost of carrying us from one place to another. So it's appropriate that overloaded passengers pay extra. It gives us all incentive to lighten up.

But even with an extra luggage fee, the price we pay for flying still doesn't come close to the real cost of using all of that fuel. And it's not just climate change. Think of what's happening now in the Gulf of Mexico and the Middle East. If we're serious about cutting carbon pollution and reducing our dependence on oil, each of us should be paying a price for travel that reflects the full cost of the fuel we burn.

Now, I figure that even by this logic I'm still a good deal. See, I weigh only 125 pounds. So whatever the pricing system, I should be able to bring on more and heavier luggage than someone who weighs, say, 200 pounds, right? Come to think of it I also take up less volume. I'm not even five feet tall and require almost no leg room. If the airlines need more overhead space, I could fit under a lower luggage rack. In fact, my whole carbon footprint is way smaller than average. My oxygen requirements are lower. I emit less carbon dioxide. I think people like me deserve a substantial discount.

Even the chairman of BP, a big Swede seems to agree. A few weeks ago he said his company cared about small people. Although granted his real meaning may have been lost in translation. Hey, where ever you're going this summer, even if your going no where, get some rest and be safe.

Ryssdal: Robert Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Next Wednesday, in his regular spot, conservative David Frum. We'd like to hear from you too. Write to us through our website. It's Marketplace.org. Click on the link that says "Contact."

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