Gas prices these days…

The funny thing about this picture is that a couple years ago, these prices would have been high! Although I usually avoid the realm of political commentary on this blog, I couldn’t help but write about the current “gasoline crisis.”

Maybe this comment will come back to haunt me years down the road when I’m running for elected office, or maybe it will simply reveal my invisible hand tendencies, but I simply don’t have too much pity for today’s motorist. So gas prices are pushing, and in many places have exceeded, three dollars per gallon. Does this actually come as a surprise?

I read that there are more V8 automobiles on the road than four-cylinders. Even my own two dear sisters drive SUV’s when a simple family sedan would probably suit their needs just as well. The collective mindset of America seems to be that oil is an unlimited resource, and that makes whining about gas prices and oil-industry profits particularly annoying.

First to address the oil-industry’s profits. I don’t claim to understand the economics of this (e.g., that companies like Exxon have to make huge multi-billion dollar investments that affect the course of the company over 10 or 20 years, hence quarterly performance indices are less relevant). But I do recognize that America and even the world is a free market. Developing economies, notably in South and East Asia, compete for the same oil that suburban Americans need to commute 30 miles daily to work. Because the supply is fairly rigid, an increase in demand will riase the price of the oil. And as far as “price gouging,” that would require illegal cooperation between oil corporations. Governmental agencies are not always swift and nimble (one might think about FEMA here), but c’mon, the SEC surely has to have a few folks focused on the oil industry. I think simple economics are the greater force at play here. Katrina knocks out refineries and the supply decreases, so the price increases. Those oil companies able to continue to provide make a profit. That’s the way it works.

And now–the whining. I don’t see rising gas prices entirely bad. A physician whom I heard last fall lecture on the problems with Medicare made the point that when there is much at stake, the tendency is to wait until a state of crisis until drastic changes are made. Clearly when gasoline was $1.50 a gallon, investors weren’t lining up at the doors of ethanol research labs. Perhaps it takes a bit of a pinch on the pocketbook to grab the attention of the sluggish and often-stubborn collective American mindset. “Perhaps we should look into alternative fuel sources. Perhaps we should have done this 10 or 15 years ago, but oh yes, we just weren’t that worried about fuel prices back then. And oh yes, perhaps drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve could possibly damage an irreplacable resource all for a few drops of oil. And now that we think about it, perhaps we should defer that $100 government check and apply those resources toward alternative fuel research and development. In the meantime, you can find us carpooling to work, and even exploring lifestyle adjustments like riding public transportation.”

Comments welcome.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Gas prices these days…

  1. JasonSpalding

    Have you ever looked at a map of gas prices in the United Stated based on county? Have you compared it to the results shown on a map showing the winning presidential candidate by county?

  2. Jonathan

    No, I’ve never seen such a map. Since I do love maps, I’d be much obliged if you provided such a link. I’d expect gas prices to be higher in highly metropolitan counties (with the possible exception of places like Houston), and I would expect those metropolitan areas to tend blue (again, with the exception of places like Houston).

    Yes that would be interesting, but I still find the sociological and economic aspects of this issue far more facinating.

  3. Jonathan

    Never mind, I found such a map by going to your blog. Readers, click “jasonspalding” to find this map.

  4. Melissa

    *gasp* Give up the SUVs?!? Has C read this? I’d venture to agree (since I’m not planning to run for public office) that thre rise in prices may motivate us to find better alternatives and more carefully expend our resources. However, on a tight budget when school is just a bit farther than I want to bike…I wish they were lower.

    I did do my own research on lowering my speed to use less fuel. I drove across state at 55-60 rather than 70 and used a couple gallons less than I normally do.

  5. Phil

    Hmmm. I would imagine that cost of living would correlate more/better with gas prices than the presidential election. It just also happens that the pricier parts of the nation tend to be more liberal. Not sure what sort of association that has with cost of living, except that more urban usually = more liberal usually = higher cost of living.

  6. Anonymous

    A couple of comments….
    First – yes a simple, practical family sedan sounds nice in theory. But when you have a dog the size of a small horse, a kennel does not fit in the back of the aforementioned sedan. =)

    Second – Jasonspalding – thanks for the map. What I find interesting about it, is the obvious efficiency in our transportation of gasoline. Gas being shipped across the country, is as cheap (or cheaper) than gas in cities with multiple refineries.

    -Chair (I can’t remember my password to login…)

  7. Jonathan

    I was actually able to pull up the gas prices map (unable to before on my home computer), and I think it’s a stretch to imply it correlates with political bent. The major areas of demarcation of gas prices are clearly along state boundaries, whereas the red/blue political map generally shows a distinction between urban and rural. (For example, the gas prices in Chicago are no higher than the rest of rural Illinois.) Perhaps this has more to do with the varying rates at which states tax gasoline.

    And Chair, should the dog REALLY be the size of a small horse, is it necessary to have TWO vehicles capable of carrying said kennel? Is it necessary to carry the kennel? My general point remains-that gas-guzzling SUVs for the most part don’t offer a practical advantage over sedans and minivans. Yes, that’s right! Minivans! Better gas mileage, more cargo space than SUVs, and a higher coolness quotient.

  8. Phil

    I think that depends on the SUV and minivan. I think I get getter mileage on my 1999 v6 4runner than my parents ever got on our 1994 v4 previa.

  9. Doctor J

    Perhaps you could use the small-horse-sized-dog to pull your vehicle, thus saving valuable fossil fuel. If you elect to try this, please send me a picture…

  10. Pingback: Prophecy fulfilled « Mulberry Street

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