Environment Forum

Happy about high gasoline prices?

May 21, 2008

A California Highway Patrol officer travels south with commuters on Interstate 5 as they make their way through heavy morning fog near San DiegoI have a confession to make — I’m glad gas prices in the United States, as elsewhere, are rising. And I’m quietly hoping they’ll keep going higher because there may possibly be no more effective way to promote conservation and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
 
Higher pump prices might be the only way that we Americans will ever even begin adjusting our driving habits and reducing fuel consumption — when it hits you in the pocketbook. The price of gas in the United States may be cresting at over the $4 per gallon level but it is still far lower than it many other countries where fuel taxes are much higher.

In Germany, gasoline is now up to about 6 euros ($9) per gallon. German think tanks have forecast that it would take prices of 10 euros ($15) per gallon to radically change driving habits.
 
Certainly there are fewer mass transit options in the United States than in Europe and elsewhere. And higher fuel prices are especially problematic for people with low or no income. What’s nevertheless disheartening in the United States is that any suggestion of alleviating the price squeeze in the United States through the conservation of fuel by driving less or by driving smaller, more fuel-efficient cars or by using public transportation seems to get drowned out by a strange political debate about temporarily suspending the federal fuel tax for a few months during the summer holiday season.

That seems to be sending the wrong message to Americans, who already use about one quarter of the world’s gas. It’s a wasted opportunity, in the age of climate change, to help a global campaign for conservation.
 
I spent an illuminating week recently driving around in California. It was amazing that so many people are still driving enormous SUVs even though fuel prices are high and rising. It was also amazing that people drive their enormous SUVs and other gas-guzzling cars at such high speeds and with such jack-rabbit acceleration.

I was in my mother’s 10-year-old sub-compact and tried to keep to the 60 mph speed limits on the freeways. It sometimes felt like I was standing still. Speeding cars, trucks and busses were passing on the left, on the right and some wanted to run right over me (it seemed). Even at 60 mph I was evidently a traffic nuisance. An attendant fills a car up with gasoline at the petrol kiosk in Manila May 14, 2008. Asian stocks struggled to make gains on Wednesday as the benefits of a firm dollar were offset by weakness in the financial sector, oil prices near $126 a barrel and dashed expectations of more U.S. interest rate cuts. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES)
 
Some especially fast cars can go from zero to 60 in 10 seconds or less. Admittedly I’m a bit obsessed with saving fuel. It takes me about 40 seconds to get to 60 mph. Even getting to 30 mph takes about 20 seconds. To save fuel, I try to avoid braking and never step hard on the gas. I got nearly 50 miles per gallon with that car.

A relative who lent me her mid-sized car was amazed when I went twice as far (600 miles) on a tank as she does. She wanted to know the secret. It’s no secret. It’s just common sense. But with political leaders tripping over themselves with promises of a summer fuel tax holiday, few in America seems to be getting that message. 

What do you think about high gas prices? 
 
 

Comments
65 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I only drive to work and to get groceries at the moment. Here in my southern city there is very little mass transportation and the Temps and humidity make traveling by Bicycle risky. Even if you arrive alive your soaking wet . Don’t think the boss would like that.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive
 

If truckers stop delivering toilet paper to washinton &
wallstreet. You will see a change in oil prices.
sometimes you have to put the pressure where it belongs!

Posted by terence giblin | Report as abusive
 

What if diesel gets so expensive that no one can afford to ship toilet paper any more? OMG!!!

Posted by Darren | Report as abusive
 

Bottom line here is we all need to do whatever we
can to reduce our consumption. Some of the steps needed range are merely inconvenient (biking, carpooling, or taking mass transit, instead of driving, wherever possible). Others are difficult (moving closer to work, paying higher taxes for mass transit, trading in your gas guzzler for a smaller, more efficient car). Some people will not be able to make the adjustment, and I think it’s reasonable to find a safety net to help these people through the transition. What I think is not reasonable for us to focus our attentions on enabling ourselves to consume gas at anywhere close to the current rate. The problems with consuming oil at our current rate are in many of the posts above.

No one should have been blindsided by the eventual demise of our cheap-fuel culture/economy. Those of us who have left ourselves unprepared have a hard reality to face, and I support some sort of safety net during this transition. The longer we postpone moving to a more fuel-efficient society, though, the harder the adjustment is going to be for all of us. It’s never easy to change this ship’s course, but the sooner we bite the bullet on this, the better. If high gas prices finally spur us to action, then we’re all better off in the long run, because difficult as it is now, it would be even worse, or worse for more of us, if we wait even longer.

Posted by Jon Wetherbee | Report as abusive
 

You want a comment, I’l give you one. To steal a phrase from Dr. Savage “Liberalism is a mental disorder”. The NO bunch are stopping everything- Why can’t we progress? We need oil, gas nuclear energy, road and rail systems improved-the list goes on and on. The greatest country, is reduced to it’s citizens shivering in their houses at night and unable to afford the gas to get to work. Why? We are held hostage by the liberal extremist environmentalists, who are gleeful to see high gas prices such as the above article, who think we should try driving the clown cars as we navigate the super highways competing with trucks. Nothing wrong with pushing to change the technology but a crash program won’t work without destroying the economy. What is wrong with you people? We are certainly able to drill for oil in our own country and still be aware and caring of environmental concerns. If those that built America said no, where would we be. Here’s my comment : storm Washington tell them you have had enough. This is no time for a crash course in gasless cars. Last, all you bon vivant Europe lovers- go live there.

Posted by streetfighter | Report as abusive
 

I dive a 2007 Mini Cooper S. I just drove over 1100 miles @ 67/Mph and was able 2 get over 40mpg. as i was driving i noticed everyone even the Big Semi Trucks that have been complaining about gas prices, and threating to go on strike, blowing me off the highway. so until everyone decides to slow down and trade there grocery getting 4X4′s and there urban crawling SUV’s in for something smaller then i have no sympathy for them. -CoryB.

Posted by CoryB | Report as abusive
 

ok,

whoever loves high gas prices can walk to work!! unlike real people we have jobs and time issues. i agree that we are killing our earth by the pollution. But thats life. i am poor and well who’s rich nowdays living in san diego. due to the current gas prices i lost my place and was forced to live out my car. i have a 92 buick roadmaster 5.7 v-8 and i have a 88 civic dx hatch 1.5 liter v-6. i had to buy 2 cars due to rising gas prices. so when you think about it. now im burring twice as much gas because i cant afford the gas in my v8 but i still drive it too. if gas prices were reasonable people wouldnt be killing eachother. stealling gas from pumps and cars. less roberies and a more happy california. so im suppose to ride public transportation? why? to get stabbed and shot again? no thank you. there are a lot of wakos out there and i depend on myself. gas should be pre paid and well we should get discounts for low income falilies like myself and the other millions of people out here suffering cuz gas providers know that we HAVE to drive. they can raise it to 100 dollars a gallon and we would still pay. thats b/s!!!! I SAY NO TO HIGH GAS PRICES AND IT CAUSING MORE CRIME AND FRAUD. I dont drive! only to work and back BECAUSE THATS ALL I CAN AFFORD!! our nation will crumble soon and fall apart. oh yah ps. ITS BUSHES FAULT!!

 

I understand where Erik is coming from. I am from Germany and have lived here for almost 9 years. Although I love this country and love to live here, there are a few areas where I am struggling getting used to. I can’t just use my bicycle to run to the store 1.5 miles away to get some milk, as I am afraid for my life riding the bicycle without bike paths or sidewalks in my neighborhood. It also bums me out that I can’t just go for a stroll with my 4 year old without having to drive 4 miles to a park. It is almost impossible in certain areas to incorporate walking and have to pay a membership to a gym in order to exercise to fight obesity (also a huge problem in this country). I could go on and on, but thought I’d rather share this link http://www.storyofstuff.com – you don’t have to be a Liberal and still get a different perspective after seeing this. Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli, CEO

 

I see where you are coming from. But since the gas prices have gone higher its hard for my family to afford the food prices and make it to work and back everyday. I think that since they raised the gas prices they should raise workers salary so they will be able to provide for their families.

Posted by Ellie | Report as abusive
 

I love that gas prices are going up. Years ago I purposely moved to a neighborhood close to my work and stores. I’ve ridden a bike to work for over ten years (for economic reasons to begin w/ since we had to pay to park). The higher the prices go up the more we’re going to see a change in attitude in the way people commute, where they live (closer to cities, and give the country back to farmers), and a change in our infrastructure (more commuter trains for the midwest/south). Perhaps items being hauled go back on the trains instead of individual trucks tearing up our freeway and making it dangerous to drive our small cars. There really is a silver lining to all this, but change can be painful.

Posted by Sandy | Report as abusive
 

People who think that one aswer fits all are being extremely short sighted. We need to take a broad approach to the problem starting with drilling our own oil. Those states that have prohibited drilling off of their shores should pay more for fuel than those that take on the burden for the country. If you take a real look at the cuase of rising pricies it has to do with speculation in investing. We should build up our own infastructure, find a better alternative than corn based ethanol, and divert some of the research money into energy storage. Batteries are the real limitation to solar and wind energy. Next time you are at the store take a look at the label. You will see some sort of corn based product in most processed food…a fact that is personal to me since my mother is allergic to corn. Next time you are at the resturant think about where that food comes from…in many cases, not only is it trucked in by Sisco but the containers it came in are lined with corn starch to keep it from sticking. I understand that people are both frustrated and passionate but let’s be logical. By the way, where is the frustration with the hypocrisy of the elites and their lifesytles?

Posted by Ted | Report as abusive
 

To all the people that say they are glad for prices to go up obviously you are living in a fantasy world. I live 30 to 40 minutes from work, according to traffic. I built my house 11 years ago for around 70, now a comparable house nearby is 100 to 170. If I move closer to work it is either apartment living or 250 to 350 for a house that may or may not be smaller than what we live in now. Trade off: $400 a month in gas or $1000+ a month to live closer to work. MMMMMMM…. Also who wants to live in the city? I would rather visit New York or LA than live there. Traffic, smog, crime. Who needs it. I also lease about 30 acres to raise farm animals on so not to lose perspective on where I came from. I make a small profit, but it sure would be nice to just be able to buy my own plot of land and raise livestock fulltime, but guess what who can afford 100 acres of land nowadays? Why can’t somebody come up with a happy median? Recently Al Gore was asked about driving his SUV and the eletric bill for his mansion and the jet he flies in since he is such the environmental man. He said he offsets by buying carbon credits. Oh that is fine and dandy for someone who has the money to do that. Guess that leaves a lot of the rest of us out in the cold, but buying credits doesn’t solve the problem one bit. My family owns 3 vehicles: a truck for work and farm use-20MPG, mini-van 24+MPG and a small car 35+MPG. What else do you idiots want me to do? Pay an extra 10 grand for a hybrid or eletric car. Enough today. People like the author just upset me since they obviously don’t have a clue about the majority of americans and the hardships we face. We turn off lights, we drive as little as possible, we recycle as we can.

Posted by Allen Durichek | Report as abusive
 

To be honest, global warming isn’t directly on my mind. There are two issues that concern me more.

First, just look at the picture posted and see the air. Now think about that, air is something that we should breathe, not see. Look at the increasing stats around child asthma rates and correlate that with the driving habits of Americans.

The second concern is that we are now living in an energy driven world economy. This has created a serious imbalance in the world and will further widen the gap between rich and poor. It will also push more middle class people into a category of working poor.

Yes I agree that conservation is important. I live on Long Island (where people say you need to drive alot for shopping, etc.) and I drive about 6,000 miles per year. I use every opportunity to take public transportation, including bus transport for my children in school (which is rare in my area since most kids are driven to school). I recycle, reuse as much as possible and quite frankly I believe that I am also saving money along the way.

People in the mid-west and other parts of the USA do not have the availablity of transport that I do.

My big issue here is that even if all of us do as much as we can, there will still be a gap and we will still have a serious imbalance.

The Federal government has dragged its feet on this for quite some time. We have no real leadership in this area and certainly no thought leadership in government.

Remember that the real story isn’t just about gasoline nor about driving, it is all about what I have termed “farmable energy”.

Let’s get this discussion going in a broader sense, but also there are so many things we can do to improve the situation.

And the Gore’s Carbon Credits. All carbon credits does is to move the problem around, it doesn’t go away just gets passed around.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive
 

Yes, I also agree with most of what was posted by James McCrossman. However, their are solutions to the problem of high gasoline prices… that most of haven’t considered. Agreed, the green-heads’ control of the environment is an issue that could be dealt with in a straight-forward, simple, realistic approach. Raise hell with your governments, state and federal, who allow themselves to be pushed around by the fantasies of the greens. Most of us respect, and cherish, our environment… and accept reasonable, common-sense, regulations to preserve our natural surroundings.
What really bothers me, is the amount of control the oil companies are able to have over our lives, and on the behavior of our governments. Living on the southern border of western U.S.A., I’ve recently heard that we could cross the border, and fill our gas tanks, for a bit more than half of the cost that we pay in our own country. That tells me that the big oil price increase is a sham, and, quite simply, highway robbery.
I’m a long-time conservative who dislikes socialistic interferences in our economy, and in our free enterprise way of life. However, when private financial interests torture us with unreasonable control of our access to basic survival products… it is time for the government to take an interest in protecting the citizens whom they are supposed to represent. Such is the case with the oil industry that seems to have much more influence on our government, than we who are common citizens.
How about examining some options that we have available, here in the U.S.A.? Have you heard of the immense oil field in the north central states? There is, from information that has been recently revealed, a block of four states… North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and eastern Montana… with extensive oil, and gas, reserves in the oil shale beneath those states. That field extends to the north, into the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Some drilling has been going on there, for the past fifty years, but not a large-scale operation. One of the reasons for the minimal exploitation of that oil/gas field, is a shortage of refineries.
This morning, I called the governors’ offices in those four states, and asked to speak to someone in their ‘energy commissions’… regarding ways, through the potential for competition, to convince the oil companies that they should be more consumer-friendly. I never got beyond the receptionists and answering machines, to deliver my suggestion that each of those states should consider building a state-owned refinery, and make an effort to control the price of the products of those refineries. Maybe it would have been better to have used e-mail for communication. In response to my phone calls, each receptionist identified specific state employees who would respond to my calls… but not one of them has done so.
Next, I’ll try the state government websites… maybe that will work better. Do you suppose that it might have an effect… if thousands of people let those state employees know that common citizens do exist, and that we expect the support of our hired government employees?

Posted by Carl Nordwall | Report as abusive
 

What would happen if everyone in the USA did not drive for one day? Could it make a difference? Let’s say everyone who owns a car, truck or SUV not drive on 08/08/08. We could ride a bike, work from home, or at least carpool. If you had to drive, make sure you carpool and only go where you have to go such as work. I bet it would sent a message to oil companies that we are sick of $4.00 plus for a gallon of gasoline.

Posted by Lisa | Report as abusive
 

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