Fuel Prices Rise, but the Nation's Song Remains the Same
It's time to change how we talk about fuel consumption.
As everyone knows, fuel prices are on the rise. The national average is now somewhere around $3.50 a gallon for regular. The state-average high -- in California, natch -- is roughly a dollar more than that.
One station in Florida is charging $5.39 a gallon for regular, the highest price ever posted during March. The Energy Department predicts that the national average will reach $3.70 by spring.
People are freaking out.
In times like these, I fall back on a line my Sunday-school teacher used whenever the class got rowdy: "Enough with the crazy already."
Aren't we tired of this? We are a mature nation, an evolved place that manages to get through the day without setting fire, a la Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes, to large chunks of the populace. We have a government that mostly works. And yet we deal with changing fuel prices about as well as a coked-out day trader deals with a wavering stock market: We panic.
Prices go up, we panic and buy small cars. They go down, we relax and buy big ones. We wonder why our driving habits don't change, why we keep buying big, inefficient cars when smaller ones ultimately make more sense. Either way, the media go nuts, which doesn't help anyone.
Because of who we are as a nation -- a group of people joined by the idea that if we want it, we can and should have it -- we don't deal well with loss. This encompasses everything from lost income via increased cost of living to any possible solution to our multitude of problems that requires someone, somewhere, to sacrifice. Similarly, there are a host of topics that people don't want to discuss whenever fuel prices rise, largely because all of them mean giving something up. When premium is suddenly $4 and change, no one wants to talk about a gas tax, or an engine-displacement tax, or how much more other First World countries pay for their fuel. All of these things are relevant, and all of them might lead us changing our fuel consumption -- the only thing we can really do about rising oil prices. But we like how we live and we don't want to change, so instead we whine and moan.
Case in point: The Economist recently posited that raising the gas tax might help us avoid an oil-driven recession. The piece in question used elegant rhetoric and a very simple chart -- which compares, rather shockingly, American fuel prices to those abroad -- to make the point that increased fuel costs would benefit the nation in more ways than one. And yet it got -- and will continue to get -- very little attention in the automotive press, and even less in mainstream media.
As Car and Driver's Aaron Robinson so eloquently put it, Americans can't even discuss a gas tax without someone calling someone else an America-hating socialist. Increased fuel taxation may not be the end-all answer, but it's disgusting that it's continually shoved off the table and removed from discussion. We're all adults, yet we can't even talk about it.
The irony is that, for most of the country, the cost of driving is academic: Whether it's expensive or cheap, many of us don't have a choice. If we're painting in broad strokes, there are two types of fuel consumers in this country: the people who can afford to not care about gas prices and don't change their driving habits when costs rise, and the people who can't afford the increase but have to drive anyway. Which means they -- yes -- don't change their driving habits. Pundits suggest that the answer to rising gas prices is simply to drive less, but America is a big country, one laid out with the automobile in mind. For a great many people, fewer miles aren't an option. Either way, for most of us, the cost of fuel is arguably irrelevant.
All the while, the media won't shut up about oil prices and how small cars aren't selling. It's maddening.
A word of advice to those complaining about fuel prices: Please be quiet. Come up with a better answer; drive less, or drive more, but for heaven's sake, do something. Something other than complain.
Now I fill the tank maybe every 6 weeks. We all walk to work. And our quality of life improved IMMENSELY. The last paragraph of the article hit it right on the head. Put up (and make changes if they affect you so much) or shut up. Do SOMETHING other than complain about it. If you so incensed about high gas prices - put your brain where your mouth is and LEARN about how you can consume less and maybe even invent something that increases efficiency. Standing around with a protest sign and shouting won't change a damn thing - stop being lazy and take some initiative.
I don't know what the problem is. When the price of fuel goes up 20% I just stay home from work 1 day a week. Isn't that what everyone does?
Seriously, while everyone seems to blame the oil companies (and God knows they deserve some), the real problem is that oil is a commodity bought and sold in a capitalist market. Unfortunately, the usual laws of supply and demand can not be applied to oil.
If apples are too expensive I can buy oranges. If beef is too high I can buy chicken. If gasoline is too high I can buy.....gasoline!
THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY NEEDS TO BE NATIONALIZED AND TAXED!
A word of advice to those complaining about fuel prices: Please be quiet. Come up with a better answer; drive less, or drive more, but for heaven's sake, do something. Something other than complain.Nicely put. This ties well with the Nation of Whiners/Wimps theme has become popular of late.
That or the American populace will jump into the Electric mobile faster and ignore/skip the Diesel train. Just another scenerio that may occur, not stating I want to skip Diesel. The higher the prices, the more people will refuse to pay for gas and would rather plug in their vehicle.
Same with pickups and SUVs, 750is and A8s, people will continue to buy them if they want them.
I agree with this, as sales figures on large trucks and SUVs dropped way down when the price of gas went way up a year or so ago, and then shot right back up once it had dropped down (even though when the fuel price dropped, it didn't go back down to where it was previously). I wanted a big car (coming back to the US from an extended time overseas) and even though I didn't have a job coming back, I bought an A8 anyway. People get what they want!
Once the dummies realize that the amount of oil we get from Libya is next to nothing, oil futures will tumble.
I agree with this as well, the price reaction we are seeing now has been caused by Fox News and the like, predicting gas at $4/gal. The news freaks out and predicts a price jump, people see it and overreact, and then the prophecy is self-fulfilling.
All of this is a result of people being stupid.
Why are you against diesel cars?
I'm not against diesel cars....when they make financial sense. Additionally, I wouldn't buy the diesel version (or hybrid version) of a car if I didn't like the gas version first. So, don't tell me I should buy a diesel Jetta, for example, when I'd never even entertain a Jetta in general. Same with something like a Prius. If they offered a straight gas version, I still wouldn't touch it because I think the entire car is extremely ugly and odd looking. Not to mention about as much fun to drive as a shopping cart.
What I AM against is zealot-like people. Zealots like you that try to tell the rest of us we're doing something terribly wrong if we don't embrace everything you do. Your total intolerance of other people's choices is disgusting to say the least.
I don't make it my business to tell other people how to live their lives, what to drive, what to eat, etc. And I'm sure as heck not going to put up with a bunch of hand-wringing alarmists telling me I need to stop driving SUVs, pickups, vans, large or medium-sized cars if they don't get 35, 40 even 45 MPG. There is NO shortage of oil and, therefore, no shortage of gasoline. I'm not OBSESSED with fuel mileage like you are. I don't need to be. I'm financially secure and able to drive whatever I want without thinking twice about it.
As long as I can afford to fill the tank on whatever it is I choose to drive, I don't see what business it is of yours or anybody else's if it gets 10 MPG or 40 MPG. I also won't tolerate any politician that tries to legislate the vehicles I want to drive out of existence. There is no rational reason to do so. Only political ones.
I have seriously looked at diesels for my next pickup truck. But every time I run the numbers I can't cost justify one versus the gasoline engine equivalent. The payback isn't there. As for cars, the only diesel cars on the market that I'd even entertain would be Mercedes or perhaps BMW. Other than that there isn't a single diesel powered car on the U.S. market today that I'd buy because I don't even like the gas versions of them. End of story.
So for me, these prices are laughable, ultra cheap. And since my car uses so little fuel, I won't even feel this.
Annatar your statement is idiotic. If you eat bananas, even if you only purchase two per year - a banana costing $.40 is more than a banana costing $.30. Therefore, it does affect you.
I do agree with this article that Americans need to stop complaining about everything and just change the way they do things. Go out to eat one time less per month, and that would cover your entire costs from fuel increases.
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