Gas Is High Enough….

by Linsey Knerl on 22 April 2008 21 comments
Photo: Rob Harris

Watching my local newscast a few nights ago, I was disturbed by the assumption that the anchor made regarding rising gas prices and consumer reaction. In direct response to the possibility that gas would reach $4.00/gallon, he mused at whether even this horrific amount for gas would be enough to “change consumers’ habits.” What? As if we’re not doing that already.

I see many ways that folks are trying to cut down on fuel costs, including, but not limited to: combining shopping trips, using internet mail-order options, carpooling, using bicycles, walking, and even telecommuting for work. These are all very good ways to cut down on gas consumption, and the high costs associated with it. So who are these people that “aren’t” yet affected by gas prices, and what world are they living in?

Perhaps they are the same people that aren’t affected by layoffs, natural disasters, or bankruptcy. Maybe they are the same people who have reacted to financial pitfalls in their own personal lives by spending more. They might be a Working Joe who has a house they can’t afford, or a well-to-do business person with a gambling habit or a penchant for pricey cars and golf retreats. To be honest, I don’t know these people. Maybe they don’t fully understand the Apples and Oranges mentality of money. They might not have ever used a budget. Everyone I know has changed their habits out of necessity and in response to rising gas prices – if only on a subliminal level.

So while my friendly news reporter is blathering on about high costs that aren’t yet high enough to warrant change, I am steaming up about the whole thing. Most people have changed. Most people are still changing. Those of us that know the meaning of a budget understand that a $200 allotment for gas per month means just that… you get $200 and no more. You make it work by driving less or taking money from some other spending category. You certainly do not hang around the pumps eagerly awaiting the magical $4 mark so that you can merely consider more efficient driving habits or kicking in a little acetone.

Maybe we’ve just been to quiet about the whole thing. Yeah, we’re upset about fuel costs, but we’re also responsible adults that understand a thing or two about the economy. We don’t crab and complain and then continue to buy the same amount of gas we bought last year. We adjust. We adapt. We make it work.

I anxiously await the next news report that claims to label all U.S. consumers as oblivious to the gas crisis and the whispers of $5/gallon gas. Then maybe, I’ll trade in my nightly news report for some facts from the Daily News Tribune.

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Paul Michael's picture

if gas hit $5/gallon tomorrow, what would happen? Would the nation grind to a halt? Would office buildings be empty? Would supermarket shelves be bare? Doubtful. As we all know, we need gas the same way we need electricity or water. It's a utility, not a commodity. And so, we'd keep driving, we'd stomach the cost and we'd cut somewhere else. I'm amazed this didn't happen sooner. When corporations can charge whatever they want and still sell out, why wouldn't they. Think about it. If they sell 1 tenth less fuel due to our cost-cutting exercises, but make double profits, what do they care?

Guest's picture
DivaJean

...Full of chuckleheads who have nothing between their ears except the blown dry hairdo on top of their heads.

I swear I just don't get it sometimes. I am with you- who isn't affected at this point? Not to get on a political soap box- but these are probably the same doofuses who think we haven't moved on over the issues that got so much attention in the last televised Democratic "debate"- where 45 minutes of time got wasted on picayune, trivial items like who the candidates neighbors were, relationships, etc--- rather than asking pertinent, timely questions of people who could possibly the leader of our country.

Yeah- sure- I'm *just now* thinking about gas conservation-- despite the fact that I've bussed to work for 11 years. Despite the fact that we moved to a neighborhood where the kids could walk to school. And that we often walk to the store, drugstore, or out for an ice cream. Despite the fact that we're planning our summer around *not* going anywhere on big trips.

I swear that the level of disconnect in this country is driving me crazy.

Philip Brewer's picture

Many people may be making some efforts to use less gas, but the results are barely noticable in the statistics.  In the latest month that we have data for, gasoline sales were down by less than one percent from the year before.  (Data from the US Energy Information Administration.)

The people who use the most gas--people who drive long commutes in big cars--are often those who feel price pressures the least.  (After all, they can afford the big car.)  They're also the ones who are least able to change their gasoline consumption--they'd have to move, or change jobs, or buy a more-efficient car.

At the other end of the spectrum are people like me.  I've cut my gasoline consumption a good bit over the past 15 years or so, but I never used much.  If I go from using 7 gallons a month to using 6 gallons a month, that's a pretty big percentage change, but even a lot of people like me don't add up to much of a drop in total consumption.

Linsey Knerl's picture

You made my point. It seems that as long as there are people with careless disregard for the state of everything (economy, housing market, gas price, etc.) the majority of the "real" people i know will continue to sacrifice with little recognition to our situation. I'm not complaining, mind you. But I am tired of being a "national statistic" with skewed numbers lumping me in with a billion people too rich or too ingnorant to care.

Guest's picture
gtWise

I never bother with looking at the gas price, I go to the gas station, plug the nozzle in and fill it to the rim. Like the very first poster pointed it out, gas is a utility and I need to get about 90 gallons of it every month. I adjust my budget allowance for gas but the way I'm running my budget I have enough surplus to be able to cover $5/gal if I had to. I'm also making over 20% in my stock portfolio YTD thanks to increased fuel prices and both me and my wife got nice 8% raises and nice bonuses this year thanks to these fuel prices. We both work in the energy sector and I'm not that concerned about the future. I have been living within our means while paying off our mortgage and student loans at an accelerated pace.

I ride my motorcycle to work that gets 47 mpg every now and then not because I have to but because I enjoy to do so.

Whining and worrying about gas price is like complaining and worrying about the weather. There is not a darn thing you can do about it, other than sucking it up.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Suck it up -- kind of.  You have to suck up the price of gas  (that can't be changed.) But I do think that most people are making adjustments, and for that they should commend themselves.  If you owned a lemonade stand and the price of lemons suddenly rose to an astronomical price, you couldn't just stop selling lemonade.  But you could try to save in other ways, (change your recipe, lock in pre-prices on lemons, raise your prices slightly, lower your portions a little...) We all adjust to rising gas.  I'm not blaming gas companies or complaining about it, just pointing out that it HAS been affecting our purchasing decisions and day-to-day operations for YEARS now, and the media has failed to recognize that.

Thanks for your comments! 

Guest's picture

It hurts knowing that there is nothing we can do. Yes we can stop consuming gas but we are not going to get a large chunk of the population to completely change their lives (work, where they live, and how they travel). We just need to adjust. Change your budget, your driving habits, and find ways to increase your gas mileage. This are the real life solutions we can use.

Guest's picture
luke

USA should be paying more for gas. why should they get a good deal just for invading Iraq and taking theirs. here in Australia we have been paying 5.50 a gallon for ages. Suck it up USA.

Guest's picture
luke

Luke, your are ignorant and apparently you don't pay much attention to anything. It explains why you resort to petty trolling, when you could be learning something instead.

#1. The US gets comparatively little of its oil from the Middle East. Most of our oil comes from the Western hemisphere. In fact our largest source of imports is Canada.

#2. Australia and Europe's high gas prices are due in large part to their crushing tax burden and lack of petroleum infrastructure.

Guest's picture
Zannie

I haven't changed my habits in the least because of rising gas prices. But then I sold my car three or four years ago because I rarely drove it except to avoid street cleaning tickets.

I have since bought a motorcycle, but between its MPG and my infrequent rides (which, frankly, is bad for the bike) I pay very little attention to the price of gas. Even at $5 a gallon I'd pay less than $25 to fill up. I think we're around $4 here already.

I do, however, live in San Francisco, which simultaneously provides me with reasonable (not great, but reasonable) public transportation and plagues me with horrible traffic, impossible parking and exorbitant, challenging to avoid parking violation fines. (Fines are going up significantly next year, too.) So it's no particular virtue for me to avoid driving.

The flip side is that the ease of avoiding driving is one of the reasons I live in San Francisco several years ago.

Guest's picture
Olivia

Some of us have have been blackbelt tightwads all along, so rising gas prices make a felt impact on our budgets. I've conciously started driving behind big rigs to lessen wind resistance and used the slower acceleration and rolling to a stop type methods Wisebreader bloggers have suggested. It's amazing so many people are still zipping around like crazy people, going way above the speed limit on highways. An older friend (who lived through the Depression), told me she thinks this is only the beginning. All we can do is the best we can do with what we've got at the time.

Guest's picture
SmBizMan

I haven't changed my driving habits... I still have to drive to work. And I still log about 80,000 miles/yr.

Does it hurt financially? A little. But I have a little car and the increase has only been about $50/month. It just means I save less...

Guest's picture
Karen

I've definitely changed my habits, which include more carpooling, combining errands, and riding the free shuttle into town whenever possible. It's knocked a little off the monthly fuel budget, but we're still hurting from the increases at the local grocery store.

Philip Brewer's picture

According to this article:

http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2008/04/22/oil_china_united_states/index....

US oil consumption is down by a bit less than 1% from a year ago.  But in the same period, China's oil consumption is up 8%.

China is a big country.  Individual US consumers may (or may not) change their fuel use in response to higher prices, but if the rising economic powers press ahead with determination in attempting to reach US standards of living, oil demand is going to stay high.

Linsey Knerl's picture

That was a great link to a good read.

Guest's picture
From the UK

All the US residents are complaining about fuel prices. Try driving the UK, where we are paying £1.20 for 1 litre of fuel ($2.40)! That would mean that a gallon of fuel in the UK is £5.40 or $10.80!

Its about time the Americans find sense that placing a V6 engine in a small hatchback and a 6 litre V8 in a saloon car will mean that its bloody expensive to use! I drive a Vauxhall Vectra (Opel/GM) 1.9 turbo diesel. On the motorway I get 62 miles per gallon!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to differ with the opinion expressed in this thread that Americans are significantly changing their behavior when it comes to gas consumption.

The vast majority whine about the price as they fill up but actually do nothing in terms of actively reducing their driving. I don't know a single person who has suddenly started to carpool or who has even traded in their big gas guzzler for a more fuel efficient vehicle. Sure, there are some folks out there trying drive slower or make fewer trips but they are the exception not the rule.

In the larger picture it is interesting to note that even with the 24 hour a day barrage about global warming and the need for conservation Americans are subjected to we are using more energy per person today than ever before.

And despite the never ending drum beat of those pushing the environmental agenda I expect that trend to continue.

Guest's picture
Taxman Mike

"WE" have some REAL problems here in America. The cost of fuel is just a drop in the bucket compared to what is really happening to us;-( Read the following and see what is happening to us ALL!!!

Charles Lindbergh, Sr. U. S. Congressman
"This act establishes the most gigantic trust on earth. . . . When the president signs this act, the invisible government by the money power, proven to exist by the Money Trust Investigation, will be legalized. . . . The new law will create inflation whenever the trusts want inflation."
(on the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, 1913)

Robert H. Hemphill, Credit Manager of the Federal Reserve Bank, Atlanta Georgia
"We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to barrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is. It is the most important subject intelligent persons can investigate and reflect upon. It is so important that our present civilization may collapse unless it becomes widely
understood and the defects remedied soon."

Congressman Louis T. McFadden.
Congressman McFadden on the Federal Reserve Corporation Remarks in Congress, 1934
The Federal Reserve-A Corrupt Institution
"Mr. Chairman, we have in this Country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks, hereinafter called the Fed. The Fed has cheated the Government of these United States and the people of the United States out of enough money to pay the Nation's debt. The depredations and iniquities of the
Fed has cost enough money to pay the National debt several times over...."

Speaker-Rep. James Traficant, Jr. (Ohio) addressing the House:
United States Congressional Record, March 17, 1993 Vol. 33, page H-1303
"Mr. Speaker, we are here now in chapter 11.. Members of Congress are official trustees presiding over the greatest reorganization of any Bankrupt entity in world history, the U.S. Government. We are setting forth hopefully, a blueprint for our future. There are some who say it is a coroner’s report that will lead to our demise. It is an established fact that the United States Federal Government has been dissolved by the Emergency Banking Act, March 9, 1933, 48 Stat. 1, Public Law
89-719; declared by President Roosevelt, being bankrupt and insolvent. H.J.R. 192, 73rd Congress m
session June 5, 1933 - Joint Resolution To Suspend The Gold Standard and Abrogate The Gold Clause dissolved the Sovereign Authority of the United States and the official capacities of all United States Governmental Offices, Officers, and Departments and is further evidence that the United States Federal Government exists today in name only..."

Congressman John E. Ensign--
"I cannot point to a specific place in the law where it says you must pay income taxes."

Congressman Dan Burton—
“You are correct in your assertion that the word “liability” or terminology “liability for income taxes” is not contained in any Section of the Internal Revenue Code”

Aaron Russo: "Is there a law that requires people to file a 1040?"
Congressman Ron Paul: "Not explicitly, but it's certainly implied."
Aaron Russo: "Well implied by force; but is there a law?"
Congressman Ron Paul: "I cannot cite a law, no, I cannot….you know if they think it's a law and they have all the guns; you know it's an authoritarian approach." {Taken from the movie "America: Freedom to Fascism"}

Sir Winston Churchill
"Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across the truth. Most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business as if nothing had happened."

Henry Kissinger
"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer."

Dwight E. Avis
Head of ATF
IRS House Ways and Means Subcommittee Hearings 1953
"Let me point this out now. Your income tax is 100 percent voluntary and your liquor tax is 100 percent enforced tax. Now the situation is as different as day and night. Consequently, your same rules just will not apply... "

T. Coleman Andrews
Commissioner of IRS
"Maybe we ought to see that every person who gets a tax return receives a copy of the Communist Manifesto with it so he can see what's happening to him."
U.S. News & World Report May 25, 1956

Jack Cole Co. v. MacFarland
337 S.W. 2d. 453, 455-456 (Tenn. 1960)
"Since the Right to receive income or earnings is a Right belonging to every person, this right cannot be taxed as a privilege."

Daniel J. Mitchell
Economist
"Compare this (40% to 75% total local, State and Federal tax rate) to the plight of medieval serfs. They only had to give the lord of the manor a third of their output and they were considered slaves. So what does that make us?"

Henry Bellmon Senator (1969)
"In a recent conversation with an official at the Internal Revenue Service, I was amazed when he told me that 'If the taxpayers of this country ever discover that the IRS operates on 90% bluff the entire system will collapse.'"

Guest's picture
Guest

Not one person I know has curbed their driving habits. People may whine about the increase in the price of gas, but I still see them stomping on their accelerators when the light turns green in their gas guzzlers and going 20 miles over the speed limit. How do I know how much over the speed limit they are going? I followed the "flow of traffic" as an experiment today on the way home from work.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I don't know that many people... but all of them are doing something to use less gas.  Maybe it's different in different parts of the country or something..  We come from an area where kids used to cruise up and down the streets at all hours of the night for entertainment.  You don't see that anymore.  Now they congregate in parking lots so that they don't burn up gas.  Even the high school kids are doing something different.

Guest's picture
Guest

In further to my comments earlier, my local petrol station is now charging £1.38 for a litre of diesel. This means that each litre would cost $2.76 or $12.42 for 1 Gallon!