Gas prices: Maybe we’re the problem

Gasoline now averages $4 a gallon. It is a level that most thought they would never see in their lifetime. And, it is expected to go higher – possibly to $5 per gallon by the end of the summer.

The price hike has far exceeded any cost of living adjustments people get in their pay or retirement incomes. It is making it much harder for people to get by and causing many to cut back on things that make life enjoyable such as vacations, family outings, visits to family and friends.

It is putting a big crimp in the national economy. People are now beginning to discover how much of our daily lives use petroleum-based products: roads, driveways and tennis courts that use asphalt; plastics in piping, containers and molds. It is a reliance on items that most cannot conceive of doing without.

So, it begs the question – how far can this go before everything really goes south?

Of course, if there are major changes in government policies on energy use and consumption and the public takes its blinders off by realizing it is a big part of the problem, then something can be done to avoid a calamity.

The oil embargo/crisis of the 1970s could have been the turning point on putting the US onto the road of energy self-sufficiency. Instead, we blamed Carter and his seemingly unfeeling response to people not wanting to turn the heat down: “put on a sweater.” We wanted Reagan and his view that America can do no wrong and that whatever path we take, it is the right one. We didn’t need to conserve energy or look at requiring fuel-efficient cars. We should let the marketplace decide what we should have. If we wanted to drive fast in big heavy vehicles that consume gas, then so be it. What matter that oil is a finite resource and when it runs out, that’s it. Since it would not happen in the foreseeable future, why worry about it?

Well, that time is approaching far more rapidly than anticipated. The energy consumption of China now rivals the United States and its economy is much stronger than ours at this point. The demand has exceeded the available supply and with the free market in action, prices have gone up dramatically.

Just as the conclusion reached in “Who Killed the Electric Car?” pointed to all facets of society, so, too, can the culprits in the price hikes in gasoline and petroleum production be identified. The oil industry has been likened to a drug pusher by getting the United States hooked on gasoline for powering its transportation vehicles. Consumers have become heavy users, ever demanding bigger size and comfort over fuel-efficiency and smaller cars. Government policies have kowtowed to the automobile and energy industries, thereby stymieing any real progress in making the United States energy independent.

For too long we have been told we can have whatever we want without any cost to ourselves. And, certainly, we don’t need to pay attention to what may happen in the future since that will be someone else’s problem, not ours.

It is a selfish, self-serving approach to life that we are loath to give up. To do so would mean we would actually have to downsize our desires and curb our needs. We have become a nation of toddlers who do not understand that we need to change our behavior for the better of others and the future. There are already nations in the world that do not import any energy resources – they produce all their own and very little of it comes from fossil fuels. The answer is a combination of conservation and renewable resources like wind and solar power. There are viable existing examples we can examine and make use of in the United States. That can be done right now. The only thing stopping us from doing so is us.

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