Most gas station pumps automatically shut off at $50. A year ago this was no problem. But since gas prices have skyrocketed to just under $3 a gallon following Hurricane Katrina, I can’t fill up both of the tanks in my Ford F-150 truck at one time. No sooner do I start on my second tank then I reach the $50 limit. I can circumvent this automatic cutoff by inserting my credit card a second time and filling the other tank. Yet this does nothing to reduce the pain of shelling out $70 in one trip to the gas station.
The high gas prices especially hurt college students. Most of us have a nominal income; we would rather not spend a large chunk of it just getting around. No wonder so many of us are complaining that the oil companies are price gouging, that gas station owners are bilking us for all they can get and that it’s time for the government to step in and make those prices come down.There is no argument: High gas prices are painful. Spending more money on transportation leaves us with less for other necessities. And those other necessities cost more than they used to. Food, clothing and other retail goods all go up in price to compensate for the increased shipping costs caused by higher fuel prices. Couple these obvious costs with the investor uncertainty that permeates our whole economy as a result of high oil prices and it is easy to understand why the stock market went down over 260 points in the first three days of last week.
Despite these negative factors associated with high gas prices, we should actually hope they are here to stay. Before you say I’m crazy, consider that only when gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs become prohibitively expensive will Americans move en masse to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Ideals don’t cause people to trade in their Hummers for Hondas; their wallets do. There’s a reason why Europeans drive cars that get 40 miles to the gallon – they pay $5 for every gallon they use.
According to an article published by CNN Money on Sept. 14, major car manufacturers including Toyota, Chrysler and BMW are all introducing new technologies to improve fuel efficiency. The article specifically links these auto manufacturers’ actions with the continued rise in oil prices. In addition, alternative fuel technologies such as biodiesel (fuel from soybean oil and other organic products), ethanol (fuel from corn) and hydrogen will all receive a push as higher gas prices allow them to compete with the current oil monopoly.
And then there’s the environment. I’m not convinced Florida will be under water in a hundred years as a result of global warming, but we do know that thousands of people die each year from polluted air as a result of heavy oil and gasoline usage, and we do know that oil, as a nonrenewable resource, is limited in quantity. While we may pay more for gas now, it could be the very thing that encourages the market to end our addiction to oil. President George W. Bush pushed an energy bill through Congress and into law, yet even he admits this legislation will do little to help our transportation future. But real market forces brought about by the twin combination of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may provide the impetus to finally end America’s addiction to oil.Of course, I’m still the model hypocrite. I’m not planning on selling my truck to buy a roller skate-sized hybrid anytime soon.
Zac Flowerree is a juniormajoring inEnglish literatureand firstname.lastname@example.org