Just like any major media issue in this country, the issue of gasoline prices has two sides: those who complain about the prices, and those who complain about the complainers.
The facts support both sides of the argument. Simply, gas prices have increased sharply over the past few years, but are still less than prices from other countries and less than the highest “inflation-adjusted” price of gas in the United States. However, when it comes to gas prices, inflation is statistically irrelevant. The consumer price index figure purposefully excludes energy prices in order to keep the figure low.
Since the invention of the passenger car, society in this country has modeled itself around cheap gas. This encouraged a huge economic boom and the feasibility of suburban living. Also, we have developed into a country with a huge reliance on cheap, available gasoline.
Also contributing to price increases is the devaluation of this country’s currency. The dollar is at its lowest point against the euro so more dollars are needed to pay for commodities that are priced for a global community.
So are people justified in complaining about gas prices at the pump?
I say yes, but it’s going to take more than complaining to do anything about it. Complaining may lead to a shift in political sentiment, which might help in the short term, but I don’t see how American society can significantly decrease the demand for oil without a catastrophic event after which society is turned on its head. Alternative fuels are another short term solution, and may reduce the demand for oil, but this demand will just be shifted elsewhere.
What if everyone worked from home, eliminating all commutation except for pleasure? I don’t think a society of shut-ins would be the best way for the economy to survive.
Just like everyone, I don’t like paying $30 to fill up my Honda Civic’s tank when I used to be able to do the same for $12 to $15 only a few years ago. Sure, I even complain about it to other people if the topic heads in that direction. But what can I do? I could move to the Middle East where gas is cheaper… but currency valuations might swing the other way.
Photo credit: ♥ellie♥
Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published July 13, 2007.