What will you do when gas hits $4 per gallon?

By Paul Michael on 6 April 2008 (Updated 11 November 2008) 75 comments

The image you're looking at is a classic VW ad from 1979, a response to the gas crisis at that time. I just filled up my tank, and 16 gallons of Plus Unleaded cost me over $52 here in Colorado. If you're in California, you're paying more. Use diesel? I already feel for you. So the big question is, what are you going to do when regular gas hits $4/gallon this summer?

It's not a case of if, but when. Oil refineries aren't going to appear out of nowhere, they take time to build. And as the summer months are just around the corner, so is the peak driving season. That's the time when the gas prices hit the roof, and talk of that $4/gallon price tag is already floating around the news desks and chat rooms of America.

Some people say we have it lucky; like my dad, who lives in the UK and pays around double that. But here's the big difference - in the UK and Europe, there are many more transportation options and cars are built to run more efficiently. When I lived in the UK I never drove a car. I actually got my license when I moved to America, because I soon discovered just how poor public transportation was. In Britain I could rely on regular underground trains, very regular buses and British Rail for longer journey. But that's not a great option here in the US. We simply cannoy give up our cars and expect the same quality of life. These days, suburbs are built a long way from the nearest grocery store. It may be walking distance, but who really wants to walk 45mins to the store, and back again with bags of heavy shopping?

I laugh when I hear people say "there's no way I'm paying $4/gallon" or "the American public just won't stand for it!" What else are they (you, us) going to do? Seriously? Gasoline should be treated like electricty, water and natural gas. It's a necessity of modern life. But, it's not. Gas companies can continue to charge whatever they want, and we will continue to pay it and make reductions elsewhere. We'll buy more store brands, eat out less, buy more fuel-efficient cars or, occasionally, walk somewhere or take a bus. But the daily commute will still be there, as will the weekly shop, and cars run on gas. If the price goes to $6/gallon, nothing will change. We'll still pay it because we have no viable alternative.

The net result of course is that gas companies can make more money by selling less product! Genius, really. Airlines are also feeling the pinch (two have gone under in the last week) and the ones that remain will pass on the price of fuel to you, the happy customer.

Maybe someone will invent an electric car. Oh hang on, they did. It was called the EV1 and it worked. Actually, it worked too well. The prospect of a car that ran entirely on electricty and required little-to-no maintenance was too much for the oil companies to bear. GM scrapped them all for "some reason." I think we all know why. If you haven't seen it yet, watch "Who Killed The Electric Car?" for more information.

Trailer - Who Killed The Electric Car?

Maybe some bright spark will invent a car that runs on water. Oh, well, that one's already in the works. If you didn't already know, Ohio inventor John Kanzius has invented a machine that can "burn" salt-water. The result is an engine that runs on the most abundant resource on the planet. See the video below .

Now, when large oil and gas companies learn about this invention, I can see one of two things happening. One, they will embrace the technology with open arms and help John develop a salt-water engine. Ha, sorry, my little joke. Or two, they'll buy up the patent and let the idea rot for about 50 years, then introduce some lame salt-water/gasoline hybrid. That's basically what they did to the electric car, which is why hybrid cars are now becoming all the rage...and these beauties still rely on all that lovely oil.

So other than growing wings or inventing a Star Trekkian molecular transportation beam, I would like to know, genuinely, what you plan to do when gas does hit that magic $4/gallon. Me, I'm going to do what almost everyone else in the country will do. Pay it, whine and moan, talk about it at work for about 2 hours a day with co-workers, and eat out less.

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Guest

I will seriously consider moving closer to work even though it will be a burden on my family.

Guest's picture
Jason

When gas hits a kajillion dollars per gallon, I'll keep doing what I'm doing now...

I'll ride my bike.

Jason

Guest's picture
Nancy

I made my first adjustment two years ago when I sold my VW Jetta with a V6 engine and bought a Honda Fit. I get 37 mpg compared to the 25 mpg I got with the Jetta.

But I'm already riding the bus to work several times a week, so that's my most recent adjustment. Not certain what else I'll do, but I'm sure there's something else.

Guest's picture

I've got bad news for you . . . I work in the Insurance industry in a claims department and I talked with several people in California today who have said that the gas is ALREADY at $4.00 a gallon!

The prediction in the office is that by the end of the summer - gas will be over $5.00 a gallon. Is the Hummer really worth that??

Guest's picture
Todd

Or rather, is living 45 minutes from the Grocery Store worth that?

Guest's picture
Polarine

Yes, I will just keep driving my Hummer. The reality of the situation is we have live in the USA where the car/SUV is a necessity, so why drive something you are going to hate.

Guest's picture
Rachel

I was already considering getting a second, super-part-time job, to help pay down my car and a credit card, but it looks like I'm gonna need one just for gas to my current job. My job is in another city, about ten miles away, and while the local bus system does have one line that runs out there, it's not the least bit reliable, and I'd have no way to get home after a certain hour. Oh, to live in NYC or such, with 24-hr public transit.

The new job I have in mind is barely a quarter of a mile away, thank goodness, but I shouldn't have to resort to such a thing because, as was pointed out, there's little to no reason for gas companies to charge as much as they do.

Guest's picture

I've been wanting to get a bike trailer so I can take my toddler places without having to throw him in the car. Of our two cars, the one in which the toddler seat fits uses more gas--and requires premium-grade gasoline. We're paying about $3.80/gallon here in California for premium grade. Buying a lightly-used but still safe bike trailer should cost me the equivalent of two tanks of gas.

Guest's picture
Elizabeth

If you're still looking - depending on the size of your child, there are lots of cool options apart from trailers. My daughter is turning 5 in July. We're just transitioning from a WeeRide Kangaroo front-riding bike seat to an Adams Trail-a-Bike tandem attachment that goes on the back of your own bike (with a belted backrest).

We loved the WeeRide from 2-4, she's just now outgrown it for this spring. We used it constantly for going to her soccer games, visiting friends, going to work - all over the place in our town, it is very secure to ride with these with small children. More affordable than a trailer as well (typically less than $100).

Guest's picture
Elizabeth

I will continue to thank my lucky stars that I found a sweet house in easy walking distance from my office and my family member's homes, on a bus route to my daughter's schools, biking distance from the soccer field, library, art museum, zoo, and train station to Philly & NYC, that my grocery store delivers - which has allowed me to live in a non-major town (Wilmington, DE) car-free for the last 5 years.

As a non-driver, I will probably start pitching in on gas money for my mother and sister with whom I do occasionally ride to Target and elsewhere...because - OUCH.

Guest's picture

Saltwater burning is no discovery of a new energy source. It's a marvelous new technique for converting radio waves into thermal energy, but the practical problem is that the energy needed to produce the radio waves still must be available in order to sustain the reaction. The laws of thermodynamics still hold.

Guest's picture
Guest

Actually, we put conservation measures into place a year ago. We ditched our gas-guzzling SUV before it could depreciate much more and bought a Prius. We hypermile when we can, to bump the Prius's mileage up as much as possible. We telecommute when we can, and don't drive around as much as we used to. As a result, we've saved a ton of money on gas versus what we used to spend, even with the price per gallon going up.

However, we're in the lucky position of being able to have those options. Not everyone can telecommute, afford buy a new hybrid, et cetera.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm taking the bus and riding a scooter when there isn't reliable bus service.

I think a major part of the problem is that our sprawling cities are built for cars, not for people. We need to start creating (and living in) walkable neighborhoods close to public transit -- not suburbs an hour away from jobs and industry.

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Cynthia

When I was shopping for a new place to live, one of the major search terms was proximity to my errands, because of gas prices. I chose a rental house that's 1.4 miles from a grocery store, post office, and restaurant cluster -- so when the weather's nice and I have an extra 40 minutes to spare, I walk. Sure, it's fine exercise, but the reason I carry a backpack full of food home once or twice a week is to think I'm cutting back those little expenses of small trips. When I have some money saved up, I'll get a bike with some kind of cart, and it'll be much easier and faster to make those errand trips. Luckily, I live in Nevada where the weather cooperates nine months of the year. Even in the last apartment when I was less than a mile away, I didn't walk -- because I wasn't financially motivated to. These rising prices are forcing people to travel less, to take jobs closer to home, and to not take better jobs that are farther away. I also do more telecommuting these days.

Guest's picture
Pixel Kid

Here in the UK we are paying the equivalent of over $2 for a quarter of a gallon!

Guest's picture
Relentless

When my local bus system expands to more outer reaches thanks to a tax levy the city asked and was passed(which is one I was in favor of)my wife and I will be taking the bus more often. These gas prices are effecting everyone except those in Washington D.C. who find it easier to ignore those who own the oil refineries and are getting rich.

Guest's picture
Mic_Hall

Your example with Europe (west) is still not good enought to show how much people are willing to pay for gasoline. I come from easter Europe. And believe me - some people, especially those living in rural areas, are willing to spend as much as 25% of their income on gasoline to get to work. Thats because there is no other work nearer and they badly need to word - same as you americans. It's easy when the the average entry level salary is at 330 euros/month and the gasoline at 1,3 euro / liter ($7,4 gallon)...

So with your salaries, there is still plenty room for increasses before you even start looking around for alternatives. The gallon could equally cost $18 and you would still pomp as much as you do today...

Guest's picture
FrugalZen

Over 2 1/2 years ago I bought a Super Scooter/Motorcycle (this means over 250cc but still an automatic..mines 385cc).

A Suzuki Burgman 400 to be exact....factory rated to go 95 mph...(too fast, Cluck, cluck}:~D) but even at 50 to 60 mph I average 62-65 miles per gallon and it has a really nice trunk under the seat that will hold a lot of groceries or other things.

It seems to run best on Mid-Grade which at the local Hess is currently $3.35 a gallon...I haven't hit the $10 mark for a weeks driving yet but I've gotten awful close.

~ Roland

Guest's picture
finaidgirl

I'm surprised no one has mentioned converting a car to run on used vegetable oil (usually happily donated by a greasy restaurant). Just google it on the internet - unfortunately it looks like a lot of labor, but for a very inexpensive result. Actually another risk for people like me is that the smell would constantly make me crave french fries.

Guest's picture

I've already got a plan. Rent out our house, move back to VA, next to the metro where we were last year and then use the Flexcar whenever we need it. Everything there was for the most part within walking distance. We would save even more money with that option so if that happened, I would welcome the push to move back to VA.

Guest's picture
Andy2

If these other sources of energy were so amazing, an oil company either would have bought it, used it, and made a ton of money over its competitors, or someone else would have bought it and made money on it. I don't think you can blame oil companies for not supporting technology that would completely undermine their whole business. Why would they do that? If these technologies are so great, someone else would have taken the risk to make money on them.

Guest's picture

What will I do if gas hits $4, or even $5 per gallon? I'll do what I've been doing for the last 2 years... buy more Exxon Mobil stock!

Mr. Stupid
http://stupidmoneyhacks.com

Guest's picture
Pixel Kid

What ridiculous comment!

Guest's picture
Jeremy

I drive around 300 miles each week to get to and from work, so if gas goes up from where it is now, to 4 bucks, that will result in a weekly increase of a little over $8. 32 dollars a month isn't going to break the bank or make me do anything drastic like move or get a new job. I'm pretty sure I can find ways in my daily routine to mitigate this increase. Plus, like Mr. Stupid above, I'll continue to invest some money in oil and gas ETFs, which if history has been any indication, will do much more than offset the minimal price increase at the pump.

Guest's picture
Guest

Well, gas here is SoFL has been pretty high compared to alot of places. It is anywhere from $3.45 to $3.70 and higher depending upon what part of are you are in. I am very lucky that the area I live in has everything I need within walking distance or under 1.5 miles. When we purchased our house over 15 yrs. ago I wanted to have everything for the "just in case factor" (car broke down, etc.) But even still, I walk or bike to get stuff unless I'm doing big shopping. We also have buses, that are ok, they could be better, but at least we have them. Other family members who moved to FL (we are all from North NJ right outside of NYC)in the northern area do not have public transportation and everything is not within walking distance.Anyway, I think people just need to plan out their driving and not make so many trips. Maybe on the way home from work run your errands since you're already out, stuff like that.

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Guest

I'm waiting for the trucker strike.

I live in a rural community, no close grocery stores, nothing within walking distance. Hearing people complain about gas prices while doing nothing to conserve their gas usage isn't going to get the message to the oil companies. What do they care that you can't afford the gas when they know you're just going to keep buying it. Is it really so hard to conserve it? Slowing down, combining as many errands into one as you can, not driving one day a week. How hard is that?

America's downfall: self-entitled, materialistic attitudes.

Guest's picture
Adels

I live in the UK. This weekend I filled the 50 litre tank (13.2 gallons) of my very fuel economical VW Golf TDI (90 bhp) with Diesel and it cost me £58 ($115.81). I spend this every week.

I don't remember the last time fuel was $4 a gallon (52p a litre). It is before I started driving (1996).

Guest's picture
Lucille

Our short term strategy is to consolidate trips, ride share and use the car with good mpg as much as possible. Were also cutting out optional things in our budget to make up for increases in gas & food.
Our long term strategy is to move. Were currently looking at Cincinnati-Covington area. Urban neighborhoods with everything nearby. In the process of putting in about three or more light rail stations in the areas we are looking at. The high and low temps are much more moderate than where we are now, allowing lower utility bills and more chance to bike or walk. If things work out right we could pretty much ditch our cars for most of the time.

I think the government has to step in or our economy is going to collapse. They need to seize the plans for the EV-1 on the grounds of national security. Then set up government/private sector partnership plants to put these into production. Start a program with Tesla corp to develop their car batteries on a larger cheaper scale and get these cars into production. The car companies and the oil companies refuse to evolve and they are purposely holding the entire country back to their profit and our detriment. They also need to finally start developing Amtrak like a real rail system.

Guest's picture

There will be nothing I can do.

Though my home is centrally located, the last grocery store within walking distance is closing. The middle-class infrastructure has moved to the suburbs, along with the middle class.

My workplace is 18 miles from my house. Housing is in such a slump that selling and moving closer to the job is out of the question; besides, I don't WANT to live there!

Bicycling or scootering or driving a small electric thing is out of the question: not safe on the mean streets, where bikers are routinely run down and fellow motorists are likely to shoot you.

And the bus system? Snark! I tried it: two hours and ten minutes, one way, to make a 25-minute drive! Even at $5 a gallon, I can't afford to spend almost four and a half hours in transit.

I telecommute a lot. Officially I work at home one day a week. Because my office is located far away from my boss's--way across a university campus--I am so far out of sight and mind that I can get away with not being there more often than once a week. As long as the work gets done, no one seems to care. So, I expect I will try to stay away from campus as much as I can.

If push comes to shove, I'll quit my job, take early Social Security, and move to a retirement community where costs are lower and I don't have to drive from pillar to post to get groceries, pet food, medical care, and clothing.

Guest's picture
CyanSquirrel

Once I no longer have to take my infant son to his caretaker on the way to work (my mom will be moving in with us to care for him while my husband and I work), I will probably switch to taking the local bus. It will increase my commute time by 100% or more (from 15 minutes to over 40), but I suppose the time trade off will be worth it once gas hits $100 fill ups. My husband does not have the option of public transit, and we live inside the beltway, which is a huge squeeze on us via rental prices. somehow, even though we are doing everything right by living close in, with grocery stores within a mile of the house, and working where we live (me) or against the grain with a reverse commute (him), gas is still impacting us either directly in dollars or indirectly in increased commute time ( public transpo vs. my car.)

Guest's picture
El Cheapo

As others have stated, $4 gas is here in SoCal and will likely rise to the $5 level come summer. I'm blessed with having a place w/in 7 miles of work, so I can essentially commute an entire month on 1 tank of gas. But more so, I'm cutting down on extraneous trips, walking to nearby restaurants, and when I'm driving its at reduced speed using cruise control. It is affecting my budget, but not in a major way... yet.

Guest's picture
AndyS

Gas prices are already at $4 per barrel in a number of countries. So we should see their behaviours and reactions to get an idea of how to plan ahead. In Europe they are talking about how they will manage when gas hits the equivalent of $8 p/barrel this summer!

AndyS
www.savingtoinvest.com

Guest's picture

Unfortunately, there is little we can do to bring prices down. But like everyone here has suggested, you can find ways to cut down the effect of the high oil prices. For me, moving 4 miles from my job has been a blessing. Not only have I saved on money, but I have more energy after work, and I get to enjoy more time with my family. Nervetheless, I miss the good ol' days when it took about $18 to fill my car : )

Guest's picture
Guest

Have you seen the Chevy Volt?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt

Guest's picture
Kelja

The writer, like many, blame Big Oil for the increasing price of their precious gas. Why not place the blame correctly.

We don't drill for oil in this country any more. A case of naive Nimby-ism with a coating of know-nothing environmentalism. Why is it OK to drill in foreign lands, many lacking even basic environmental protections, but we can't poke a few holes in the dirt off the coast in CA, FL or in the wilds of AK?

Oil is getting much harder to find and pump out. Used to be it took the energy of one barrel of oil to pump out 10 more. Now, because it's deeper, it's 1 barrel for every 3 to pump out.

The biggest causes for prices going up: Chindia (China & India) and the collapse of the Dollar.

And, please, stop hoping for a quick technological fix. You have no idea, unless you're an engineer working in the field, the difficulty of having alternative energy replace what oil can do.

As for me (since I live in CA, it's already $4 a gallon), I'll buy another Hummer when it hit's $5!

Guest's picture
Guest

Anyone who believes the utter lies and implausible theories of the crocumentary "Who Killed ..." deserves to get ripped into pieces (logically speaking). "The EV_1 worked too well."
Well, contrary to the lies of the film, apparently no one ever believed that nonsense. first off, the Toyota Rav4 electric, available during the same time and the Honda EV, available during 1996, both of which were cancelled, were FAR, FAR superior cars to the crappy EV-1, recently named by Time auto analysts (those are people, unlike those here, who actually understand what cars are required to do) as one of the worst cars ever built. Why you ask? Well, how about a driving range to stress out even the fainthearted - a destination radius of barely 35 miles. Trip to the beach? That's out. Trip to the doctor's? That may be too far away. Exactly how far away is his office? Or that store? Price ? $43,000, or 3 times more than the much larger, more capable Honda Civic that can go anywhere.
recharge? Oh, about 8 hours. Need to make an emergency drive? Sorry, my car's being recharged. Cheap to operate you say? How about the need for a new battery pack of 25 NiMH batteries every five years or so? It only costs $20,000, which s 4 times more than anyone would have spent on gasoline, making the EV-1 the most expensive car, per mile, on the planet. Yes, you're exactly right. The EV_1 was simply way too good. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Guest's picture
akkooler

Kelja was close with this issue, it's not the price going up, it's the value of the dollar going down... I don't believe it's a demand issue because there are no stations running out of gas or factories fighting over oil by-products... As long as the US Govt continues to print out tons of cash to fund expenditures without responsible appropriation then the value will continue to plummet... And I've yet to hear any candidate for president, senator, congressman, or the mainstream media voice this reason for why prices are skyrocketing... With the exception of congressman Ron Paul...
What will I do? Well with my second job I'll have to charge more for my services... What can any of us do? You just have to go out and make more dollars...

Guest's picture
Guest

just a note, skybus went under too, which makes three in a week.

Guest's picture
Kelja

akkooler - I was close? please tell me where I was the least bit off.

I agree Ron Paul is the only thinking politician but the voters don't vote for people with real ideas. They've proved that over and over. He's - unfortunately - unelectable.

Hyper-Inflation is coming at us like a freight train. Some can see it but we can't stop it. And, it's going to hurt like hell!

Guest's picture
DivaJean

We have already alerted the young 'uns- this year they will be walking to swimming lessons daily at the city pool- instead of being driven. My mom's house is at the walking midpoint- she will be stocked with popsicles for what I imagine will be daily cool down breaks mid walk.

We are already walking 4 blocks for milk/bread runs at our Rite Aid- rather than getting the car out. We may consider getting a cart for walking 10 blocks to the nearest grocery store for non frozen food runs (or less perishible things) on occasion.

Kids already walk to school and I bus to work.

We usually go to the amusement park every month (3 hours drive total there & back). This is not open to negotiate *yet* but might be later in the season. We might reconsider one trip we had thought about and instead keep the money on hand to keep our amusement park habit fed (park has water rides, pools, and regular rides- very inexpensive once we get there).

We are also filling our kids summer with events closer to home--things like activity camp at the high school (15 minute walk from home) and events offered at the local park (across the street from our house) will be used more often. It is our hope that these will curtail kids wanting to be driven all over town to friends homes, etc.

Guest's picture
Laura

No, it's not evil oil companies jacking up the prices and cackling manaically while watching the poor consumer struggle to pay for their gasoline. The price of oil is going up, due to the value of the dollar going down, and the scarcity of oil to be had. Refineries are running at 95%, because we haven't built a new one in 30 years. Everyone wants more, cheaper gas, but no one wants a refinery built near them. We can't make gas any faster to keep up with demand.

And really, with all the complaining, demand keeps going up. The majority of people are whining about the cost while filling their tanks as much as ever.

As for me? I try to drive as little as possible. This isn't too different from what I've always done, but now I am a little more stingy with my mileage. I carpool the 30 miles to work and bike when it is feasible.

Paul Michael's picture

Oil exec #1: "Oh man...we just made record billion-dollar profits again, people are going to hate us."

Oil exec #2: "Yeah. Maybe we should put some money back into the system in the form of rebates or something?"

Oil exec #1: "Good idea. And I'll support legislation to look into windfall profits. After all, if people hate us, they won't buy our gas."

Oil execs #1 & #2: Cackle maniacally and count their money.

Guest's picture
Lucille

The issue is a combination of a number of influences. Big oil very much is a part of the problem, they are pegging record profits and they like making more money for less work. More use by India & China is also a contributing factor, as is high wholesale prices for a barrel of oil and the falling dollar. Congress refuses to do anything but can you blame them? Bush would veto anything they tried to do and they still might not have the votes to over ride it.

For now that leaves us to figure out how to deal with it. Using less seems to be the first option available. But less driving and less cash for spending is also going to drag the country down faster as people quit buying in various industries.

I really think the only thing we can control beyond our own personal conservation is to push for some decent transit options beyond car and airline.

As for electric cars. They are still certainly viable. One has to remember that none of the automakers went into that experiment willingly. They wanted it to fail and did everything they could to make that happen. People still want those cars. If I had the cash I would be on Tesla's waiting list.

Guest's picture
Barbara

has anbody mentioned carpooling yet? Friends, or neighbors that go in the same direction as you, at approximately the same time. Or some areas have companies that specialize in helping commuters match up and get rides. I would think that even doing this once or twice a week would greatly help out with the budget, gas consumption, etc.

Guest's picture
Guest

Patents only last 20 years, so "let the idea rot for about 50 years" doesn't work.

Guest's picture
GB

Driving an SUV is not as expensive as a new mini-van if you don't bother buying new. Yes SUV's depreciate much faster, but that really just means you get more value for the money if you buy after depreciation has taken it's biggest bite. My rule of thumb with any vehicle is 2 years old, and no more than 36000 miles on the vehicle.
That lowers the cost of ownership significantly.

The SUV fills a niche that is not accomodated by Mini-Van's, Prius's, or any other vehicle.

They are intended as tow vehicles (hence more power, beefier structure), provide more room, better visibility in traffic, and
you can take the family, with luggage to your vacation spot of choice. Yup it costs more to drive there so I'll economize by doing more sailing at the lake :)

Guest's picture
Guest

- This will get interesting. The political experts claim that it takes about two months for an issue to resonate with the public. Therefore, the gas at $5.00 per gallon should hit public awareness just in time for the November elections.
- I foresee one of two alternatives.
- Either Congress does something, anything, to mitigate this. Remember the 1970's "windfall profit tax" and price controls.
- Or, there is mass turn over in Congress, regardless of party affiliation.
- Interesting times.

Guest's picture
John 460

What will I do when gas hits $4 per gallon? That's easy. I'll do fewer things that require me to spend money on gasoline. You know, the things that require driving. I'll probably watch a lot more TV, because I already pay cable for it. I'll probably rent more DVDs than go to movies or plays or concerts. I'll stick to my route to and from work when shopping for everything from groceries to clothes. I won't go to the big mall that's five miles out of my way; I need to watch my money, so I'll be shopping at Wal-Mart. I won't go to that Cubs game, at least live; I might watch it on TV or work in the yard instead. I won't go to the casino to gamble. I won't go out that four miles out of my way to go to the restaurant I enjoy; I'll eat at home. Vacation? Got it right here: a lawnchair, a couple of brewskis, a sunny day, and lookee here...I'm on vacation.

Here's what most money people don't understand: when the not-as-well-off-as-they encounter high gas prices, we draw in our spending around our necessary routes, the lower income financial version of circling the wagons. We make the choices about what we can do without and we are happy with what's left. Businesses where we last year spent marginally because of distance or expense now don't have our money at all. Maybe those businesses need to lay off people. Or change their hours to "maximize income". Or close entirely. The storefronts empty. The recessional slope down which the US economy is slipping becomes steeper and much broader at the bottom.

Little of that will matter to my family, however. We have learned to do with less. We have learned how NOT to spend money on those extravagances that boom economies are based on. My advice? Figure out what's excess spending in your life and cut it out. Sooner rather than later. Ain't nothin' gettin' any cheaper, friends, except promises from the government.

And don't forget...greed kills because we let it.

Guest's picture
Guest

is the low dollar. not supply of crude, not opec, not refining capacity, not taxes, not arabs, not iraq, not gas stations.

why is the dollar low? because the fed and treasury have to print money and lower interest rates to support the economy.

BECAUSE YOU ARE BROKE.

savings? nah. mortgage? check. credit cards? check. home equity line of credit? check. on and on it goes.

now we are paying. the dollar is worth less and less.

doomed. get educated.

Guest's picture
Karen

Our rental agreement expires this summer, and we're currently negotiating to purchase a house across the street from my husband's primary workplace and just a short walk to light rail (commuter train), shopping, library, parks, & school for the littles. We will be selling our second car and using our bikes for errands. I recently ordered sturdy bike baskets designed for carrying groceries, and I plan to make good use of them.

In the intervening couple of months before our move, we have cut back significantly on our driving. We no longer eat out, and we carpool with another family for after-school activities. We use the community free shuttle whenever we need to run errands that take us farther afield than our bikes can carry us.

The funny thing is, I can afford the gas, but the fuel crisis has inspired me to re-think my priorities & reduce my carbon footprint. In the end, I think our quality of life will improve significantly after we move. Commuting 45 minutes a day is stressful even without the high gas prices, and we'll be getting back a nice chunk of family time every day.

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Guest

We cut back on gas use for "green" reasons. We walk to church, video store, restaurants and so forth. We combine errands. We carpool. I telecommute.

My husband's job involves getting on farmers' back 40s and requires a gas-guzzling SUV with major cargo room. NOT A HUMMER - those suck for real field work. Hubby should know - he has driven real Hummers (not these wimpy street ones) in the ARMY. We own a van too and I can testify absolutely that vans are better for vacations, visibility, room, and ease of travel.

I guess the upshot is that we will conserve where we can, but will shell out whatever amount of money it takes to get us where we need to go.

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There isn't much you can do about high fuel prices. It is going to get pretty ugly this summer. Just remember that the cost of oil is based on the value of the dollar, so as our country keeps printing more money the amound of oil it buys is less. Utill the people in washington learn to have a balanced budget we are all going to be hurting from high oil prices.

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KC

What can we do? I've already changed my driving style - I'm coasting a little more, not accelerating so fast. I live in a large city and its flat - its hard to conserve gas that way. I'll probably do a little less "entertainment driving". I play a lot of tennis, but I doubt I'll be willing to drive out to the suburbs 3 times a week to play - maybe just once a week. I'm also a baseball addict and sometimes drive 100 miles to see a minor league game - won't do that as much, I'll just stick with my home team. Other than that where else can I cut back - gotta do things neccessary for life - like work, gym, etc.

I certainly won't sell my V6 that takes premium gas. I own the car, why sell it and buy something else or make payments on a new car? That would cost more money in my situation. I just don't have a long enough communte to justify something that gets 40 mpg when I already get 20 in the city and 30 on the hwy. I'm trapped - I'll just have to pay the gas increase and cut back on other consumer spending.

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Nathan

With this issue there are a few choices.

1.Take it, and do nothing, which is what I have been doing, and several other people.

2.Change how you live your life. Move closer to work, walk, public transportation, etc.

3.I have had this idea for a while, while on a grand scale boycotting isn't rational. NO WAY can we live without gas. So we can't boycott gas altogether. However, what if everyone, all of you, me, and everyone we told were to stop using particular types of gas. Stop using say Mobil, or Hess, or Sunoco. Pick one, and NO ONE, NO ONE, uses that brand of gas. It would be tough for sure. I particularly prefer Mobil, but for the sake of this I'd give it up and go some place else. It would be a long hard road, but I think that if we could get a small group of committed individuals, and spread the word to all our friends and family, we could make a difference, and force Oil Companies to pay attention.

Whose with me?

-Nate

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Stephen

Well I'll probably continue doing what I have been over the past 3 years. Take public transit, ride my bike and walk. If the area I'm going is too far away and isn't served by public transit, then I'll drive.

Dependency on oil has become painfully acute in recent months here in the Northwest, causing the price of all food items to explode. The same stuff today that used to cost $19 to purchase is now $26. An alternative isn't just needed on the personal scale, but on an industrial wide scale. With diesel at over $4 a gallon, and an industry that supplies all our goods in probably the least efficient way possible, I'd like to see the jump to some other fuel or engine to transport the goods we all depend on.

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Karen

Stephen brings up an important issue: it's not just about whether or not you can afford to and from work in a personal vehicle. Fuel prices affect everything. Have you taken a close look at your grocery bill lately? How about the prices on the menu at the local tacqueria? Ouch!

I've been thinking that our next step after moving might be to buy a share of the local CSA or, gasp, start a Jim Crockett victory garden like the one my parents had when I was growing up in the 70's.

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Guest

Honestly if one more person says bus to me I think I will throw up. OK - for those of us who live in areas to rural to have bus transportation this is my plan. I am checking the mileage to all our activities & work from our house. Some will be walkable, some will be bikeable. But how someone walks 6 blocks to scouts with a stroller, a toddler & the craft project plus maybe cupcakes...I'm sorry...I like to drive my car. And when your town has everything big boxed out to the outer rim of the community (not my end of course) I don't really want to figure out the logistics of that weekly or daily grocery run. Should we talk about the weather? 9 months out the year we would be walking literally a mile up hill in the snow both ways. Now I don't want anyone to fill sorry for me because I did choose to live in South Dakota & should have seen this coming & moved somewhere incredibly expensive but more convenient before the market fell out of real estate. We own a very small family business, my husband works for the school district full time so we could have health insurance, we have no hummer or suv and both carry education/job experence which seems to be of no value unless we relocate to some where they are hiring (maybe India?). So I combine errands(which I have always done), try to get other parents to carpool to out of town activities (near to impossible because of work schedules etc) & generally feel rather depressed about how we (America) got to this place that feels like we are the last ones hoping to get a lifeboat on the Titanic for our children. And yes - I still drive by people with BRAND NEW SUV'S everyday who I know don't have kids, do scouts, transport soccer players or need to go somewhere really important like to the hospital in the middle of a blizzard. But I bet they got a great deal on that sucker...I'm thinking of buying a few chickens and expanding the garden this year. Hope we are zoned for chickens, heck maybe I can get a gov't subsidy!

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Guest

I don't know if you meant to, but you gave me quite a laugh. I live in "the big city" now, but I am a small town girl and I hear you loud and clear.

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Guest

My husband and I live in Phoenix, Arizona and never had a car. We take the bus or walk, or have heavy things delivered. Now with the soaring price of gas, transport costs affect everything here -- medical care, food, utilities, rents. Even the bus pass has gone up. We had a couple luxuries, like ordering Chinese food on Friday nights, and cable TV (only way you can get a TV signal in apartments). We have stopped everything but the internet because I use it for work. Stopped buying bread and canned soup and made our own. Stopped using the bus to go to the store, walk the mile each way, hauling a cart back. Our clothes are recycled/repaired jeans and T-shirts plus one "Sunday" outfit, and we each have one work and one good pair of shoes. There isn't a lot left to cut out.

I have some resentment for those who ran around in gas guzzling Humvees and SUVs living the high life, and now the rest of us are paying for it. But mostly I feel sad for those who cannot even imagine our kind of life, and are suddenly thrust into it. The areas served by public transit tend not to be the suburban jewels. I know what street trouble looks like, and how to dodge it. My feet are used to pounding the pavement: if public transit lets us down again, I know my town and I can walk the safer ways, even if it does take 3 hours to get home (true story).

It is one thing to be an able bodied adult and adapt like this. What about the elderly or disabled, moms and dads with little kids? Hauling a week's worth of groceries is not fun for me and my husband when it's over 100 degrees out, nor is 20 minutes waiting for the bus to show so you can arrive at work late and soaked in sweat. I cannot imagine doing daily errands here with small children in tow, or in a wheelchair.

We saw this coming a year ago. We've been working overtime for the past year, cutting back on literally every aspect of our lives. We saved just enough to move to a better climate. Phoenix is not a happy place without cheap utilities and cheap transportation. I wonder how many other people will find themselves migrating in search of more liveable climates with better public transport?

These are the first rumblings of a nasty discovery for a lot of commuters: when you can no longer afford the 30 minute drive, your bus commute will take 1-1/2 hours each way. The utilities keep going up, and the apartments and houses here are not well insulated. $145 a month for a 1 bedroom apartment with the a/c used sparingly. It is 90 degrees in the living room as I type this. Those prices are not going to drop any time soon, either.

Here's a hint from a veteran of the "no-car" lifestyle: Use one of those trips to the mall to get a comfortable pair of thick soled shoes and some cushy socks. Maybe in the future middle class people will show off the brand of their shoes the way they talk about their Lexus now.

Good luck to everyone as we learn to improvise, make do, change our daily habits. Creativity is what humans do best, so maybe we'll make it through this with our honor, dignity and sense of humor intact.

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Unfortunately, there is little we can do to bring prices down. But like everyone here has suggested, you can find ways to cut down the effect of the high oil prices. For me, moving 4 miles from my job has been a blessing. Not only have I saved on money, but I have more energy after work, and I get to enjoy more time with my family. Nervetheless, I miss the good ol' days when it took about $18 to fill my car : )

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Larry

About a month ago, I decided to simply budget $35 per week for gas. My 95 Toyota Avalon (with 194,000 miles on it) gets around 22 mpg and we also have a Honda Accord that gets a little better than that.

I don't normally "work from home" very often, but I am free to do so pretty much any day I want to. So, I'll probably do that one day per week and drive less on the weekends doing errands.

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Larry

About a month ago, I decided to simply budget $35 per week for gas. My 95 Toyota Avalon (with 194,000 miles on it) gets around 22 mpg and we also have a Honda Accord that gets a little better than that.

I don't normally "work from home" very often, but I am free to do so pretty much any day I want to. So, I'll probably do that one day per week and drive less on the weekends doing errands.

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Cheryl

What will I do when gas hits $4 a gallon? Not a darn thing because I'm car-free! I'll keep taking the bus and train.
You can't imagine the feeling of freedom I got when I sold my car. No more gas, no more maintenance, no more insurance, no more parking tickets.. the list goes on...

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Guest

My employer requires me to have a car as an ancillary condition of employment and subsidizes a minimal amount for gas expenses.

I work in a fairly specialized field and the jobs are not very common nor plentiful.

I work 40 miles from home and my work is not in the nicest of neighborhoods so taking the bus, rail or moving here is not even on the books either.

On top of that, I have to wear a business suit for work so motorcycles or scooters would be out unless I pay $1,200 for one of those 1 piece protective jumpsuits like Aerostitch because I won't ride without wearing protective gear. Then you figure in how much gas would it take to earn back even the initial outlay for the Aerostitch suit before you can break even from driving a car with its greater utility, stereo entertainment and comfort in all weather conditions. If I save $15/week on gas from riding a bike everyday, it would still take 80 weeks (~20 months) for me to start breaking even just from the suit, not to mention the cost of the bike.

Which means... not much will change for me no matter what the gas prices are other than I will be job hunting closer to home to no avail just like the last few years. Maybe I should go full boat and just get the H1 Hummer?

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boycotter

that salt water thing is bogus. he's using radio waves to separate out the hydrogen, and burning the hydrogen. that's an energy input.

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Guest

"And, please, stop hoping for a quick technological fix. You have no idea, unless you're an engineer working in the field, the difficulty of having alternative energy replace what oil can do."

I wish more people could understand this. It is the truest thing in this whole thread.

Remember that today's car engine is the result of 100 years of research & development by many, many companies. All that research has been based on using gasoline as a fuel. You simply can not expect alternative fuels to work as well as gas and yet cost less.

The only real alternative is to start over and design a completely new type of power source for a car that will be powerful, cheap to manufacture, cheap to maintain, environmentally friendly,and run on a renewable or sustainable fuel source.

That's quite a technological challenge.

One last thing - we haven't built any refineries for 30 years because the EPA will not let us. I'm not saying this is right or wrong, just stating a fact.

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Guest

I'm in college and I'm lucky enough to be able to walk to work and school (good for my health too) and take the free shuttle to the grocery store (although it IS inconvenient because the bus doesn't always show up).

This summer will be killer. I have to take a class back home that is an hour (not counting traffic) from my house and it's 4 nights a week! I calculated based on $4/gal I'd be spending $80 a week on gas just for that class! That'll be about 40% of my weekly income this summer :( I guess I'll cross my fingers that someone going to the community college at a similar time lives near me and we can carpool.

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Gates VP

OK, so there's a ton of crap here EV1? Gas prices in Britain? yeah check Eastern Europe!

Electric cars and hydrogen cars and air-powered cars are all just stop-gaps. At best they're tiny increments better, but honestly, hybrids and more efficient cars are the best mid-terms solutions right now, especially from a monetary standpoint. Hydrogen may be an eco-friendly power "container" but it's not really a readily available "power source".

The fundamental problem is that we need to move all of these giant hunks of metal via some form of energy. If you power the hunk of metal by plugging in your car, then you'll pulling energy "from the grid". Right now, that grid consists of 31% coal, and like a 45% chance of being powered by natural gas or oil of some sort and a 10% chance of being fueled by nuclear power. Wind, Solar, Geothermal and Biomass make up less than 2% of energy generation in the US, relatively clean and renewable hydroelectric makes up about 9%.

Point is that "plugging in" your car may reduce your gas bills, but you're paying for it somewhere else, likely by burning natural gas or coal somewhere else. Clearly not a solution we can implement across 250M passenger vehicles in the US.

So-called "Hybrids" are the way of the future because we need to find better ways to move these personal vehicles, not just a different energy source. Honestly, gas is just fine right now. If every car on the road had regenerative braking (like the Prius or EV-1) and place to store the energy (like hybrids do), we could likely be saving 15 to 20% of our gas usage. Heck if half of the world's commuters took a motorcycle to work instead of the family SUV, we'd save tons of energy.

But the fundamental truth, which you did touch, is that North Americans (in general) are addicted to their cars and have founded their life around the availability of a personal vehicle to move themselves around. So when gas hits 4 or 5 or 8 dollars per gallon, we (the general populace) will likely continue to stubbornly cling to our "high-gas" existences because we've built our life that way. We've built our cities and our suburbs and our workplaces around the availability of inexpensive energy sources and inexpensive cars.

And most people couldn't even imagine life without their car. They can't envision that existence, so they're not going to see it until gas hits like $13 per gallon and people start forcing their reality to shift. And if it never makes it there, then nothing will really change.

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Karen

"So when gas hits 4 or 5 or 8 dollars per gallon, we (the general populace) will likely continue to stubbornly cling to our "high-gas" existences because we've built our life that way. We've built our cities and our suburbs and our workplaces around the availability of inexpensive energy sources and inexpensive cars."

I absolutely agree. Many people have few options for reducing their fuel consumption. They live in the exurbs, owe thousands on gas-guzzling vehicles bought during better days, and have limited or no public transportation access. And, now that the easy money days appear to be over, they have no way of borrowing enough to keep us going. It is going to be exceeding painful for us as a nation to face the truth: peak oil is coming and there are no quick fixes.

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Orangetiki

My remedy is my Vespa 70+ mpg, top speed of 60 mph, and the feeling of early morning wind on your face wakes you faster then coffee. Unfort. the way American cities and towns are built there will always be a commute of some sorts unless your lucky enough to live in a city where your job is withing bicycle / walking distance. I've been on two wheels for a while now and I love it. You don't need necessarily a small scooter or asomething like a sensible 500cc cycle will easily get you 60 miles per gallon + so in essence you'll save twice as much in gas as you did in that sub compact. Granted it isn't the best at all times of the year, but they are a great idea for a second car in the household.

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Guest

WHY DON'T WE STOP BUYING GAS AND PRODUCES FROM ONE OF THE TOP COMPANY LIKE EXXON FOR A MONTH SO THEY CAN FEEL THE NEED TO DROP PRICES. THEN NEXT MONTH SHELL AND SO ON.

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I just reviewed the cost for my bicycle 'investment' on my blog.

http://bike-commuter-sc.blogspot.com/2008/04/happy-and-lucky.html

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Guest

You all keep talking about demand, demand, demand. The problem with this is that peak oil production isn't set to come until 2050. This is when oil production will be at it's highest, supply will be at it's lowest, and prices will be at their highest. This is not to mention the fact that there are tons of barrels of oil in Alaska, but thanks to you tree-huggers, we can't drill for it. (please God don't let us disrupt the migration patterns of the animals so that we can live a more comfortable life)
The thing that is driving up the price of oil are the share-traders, not the oil companies themselves. You people that buy, buy, buy shares of oil companies are the one's doing the hurting. Everyone is trying to make a buck, but really you're just screwing everyone who doesn't want to, or can't afford to buy the stock, and since the people who work for the oil companies own stocks too, the more that are purchased, the more the price per stock goes up. The more gas goes up, the higher stocks go up, so the more stocks are bought. SO OF COURSE THEY DONT WANT TO USE AN ALTERNATIVE. And as far as the government doing something, and this by no means means I'm a Hillary supporter, but she plans to launch an investigation into the oil companies (who posted record profits this year) and still plan to increase the price, as to why prices are so high, and introduce litigation against these share-traders and their actions.
So there you have it. That is the down and dirty truth about oil companies, share-traders, and the rising oil costs that are cripling this country. The bottom line is that we need a new president who will actually start doing something for the MIDDLE CLASS instead of everyone else( i.e. the people who don't do ANYTHING with their life at all, and the people who make enough money to not have to worry if the price/gallon goes to 10$, and hopefully that will come with the next election.

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Guest

1. To the people proposing a boycott of the oil companies - don't be ridiculous. All you're hurting are the local businesspeople (unless you're going to run in for coffee and forget to fill up), there isn't a special Shell tanker that comes and fills the Shell station. Ergo, your attempt is useless.
2. America needs to use less oil before we go drilling for new sources. Drilling the ANWR and using only its output would supply America with oil for about a year and a half.

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Michelle

I live in Alaska and gas is already at 4.42 here. You all might be complaining now, but we're still buying gas up here, because we have to.