Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Running Out and Cutting Down

As gasoline prices head toward $4 a gallon, there are signs Americans are starting to use less.

“Sustained higher gasoline prices are beginning to show up in lower gasoline consumption,” an analyst for the Energy Information Administration observes as usage declines for the first time in two decades, albeit by only a fraction of one percent. The drop was more dramatic last Christmas when total miles traveled in the US dropped 3.9 percent compared with a year earlier.

Not a minute too soon, according to Paul Krugman, who foresees hard times when "an ever-growing world economy pushes up against the limits of a finite planet" and rich countries "face steady pressure on their economies from rising resource prices, making it harder to raise their standard of living" and poorer countries "find themselves living dangerously close to the edge--or over it."

In this election year, politicians will talk darkly about oil industry collusion to raise prices, which may well be true, but not much about conservation. Voters don't want to hear about driving less, carpooling, using mass transit and buying fuel-efficient vehicles.

But $4 a gallon seems to be getting their attention, and $5 would have them spellbound. Starting to conserve now would help stave that off.

Earth Day would be a good time to start.


GiromiDe said...

Dubya missed a great opportunity to actually lead by inspiration a year or so ago when he spoke about the rising price of fuel. Instead of asking Americans to make sacrifices and adjustments to their lifestyles, he promised us that alternative fuel supplies would be found. I was let down, but what else should I expect from a President who forcefully asked me to continue to spend my money however I saw fit not long after the 9/11 attacks?

GRCOH said...

"...driving less, carpooling, using mass transit and buying fuel-efficient vehicles"

These are all good measures for dealing with the current state of technology as fostered by the oil/automobile combine, but we all know these are only stopgap defensive measures.

Maybe after America and other rich countries struggle and fail to maintain their standard of living, or when developing countries tackle the problem, then the genius of mankind will again emerge.

Maybe the emergence of these future technologies will remind us of the start of the last century when buggy-whip salesman laughed at Henry Ford.

Let's hope that there are inventors at work on this new technology right now in some struggling country, maybe even ours?