Gas Isn’t That Expensive: Anyone Up for a $4 Latte?
Here it is, the beginning of May and already we’ve seen a formidable surge in gas prices since the first thaw of spring. And while things have leveled off a bit at the pump, there’s sure to be another spike in the price of fuel before Memorial Day at the end of the month.
While it is undeniable that everybody, from the commuters to the cab drivers to the big companies that truck their products all over the nation, feels the pinch as gas rates rise over two dollars a gallon, the occasion gives us pause to think over here at YES! Weekly.
Yes, gas is expensive. But even at two dollars a gallon it’s still cheaper than water (when bought in 16-ounce intervals) and coffee (particularly those of the latte variety). Remarkable when you consider that gasoline comes from petroleum, a finite resource that grows more scarce every day. Here in the United States we’ll use 20 million barrels today just for our cars, a figure which represents about 45 percent of ourtotal consumption. Tomorrow we’ll use just a tiny bit more. And so on.
That the United States uses quite a bit more fossil fuel per capita than any other nation on earth is so well documented as to be almost tiresome. But the statistics are staggering nonetheless ‘— with just 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume more than a quarter of the oil produced and refined annually. Based on our consumption (and also low emission standards and taxes) we get a huge discount at the pump. Sure, gas is up over three dollars in some parts of California, but in London it’s almost $6 American for a gallon (after you do the math). The adjusted rate in Paris, France is more then $5.50 per gallon (a fair sight more than Paris, Texas) and even in Tokyo it’s over $4.25.
And here in the US, gas is still cheaper than beer. It’s also cheaper than’… gas, if you adjust the figures to meet 2004 dollars (after first-quarter inflation). In adjusted 1980 dollars, gas was about $2.42 per gallon and it rose to an all-time high in 1981 ‘— about three adjusted dollars per gallon as a national average.
If you still think gas is expensive, at least acknowledge that gas is extremely valuable ‘— finite in nature and one of the things that makes the world tick ‘— and as such is something that should be treated with respect. So instead of using political and economic influence to keep gas prices down (a quick fix if ever there was one) maybe we should be doing things like driving smaller cars, sharing rides to work, taking the bus, buying bicycles (and actually using them) or, have mercy, getting off our butts and walking to the neighbor’s house or the corner store.
And perhaps’… just perhaps’… it’s time to look at alternative sources of fuel. Oil is valuable and finite ‘— they’re not making any more of it ‘— and like all things finite, it will eventually cease to be.