Friday, April 21, 2006

Gas is expensive. So?

Tune to any news program today and within five minutes there will be a report on “skyrocketing” gasoline prices, with dark hints of nefarious plots and other malfeasances contrived by oil execs and refiners.

Coincidentally, New York Times just published a most interesting graphic:


This led me to search out some additional stats on gasoline consumption....

“The state [of California] has seen $3 gas twice before: in September [2005], when prices peaked at $3.06, and in 1981, when they touched $3.08, when adjusted for inflation.” (emphasis added)

How did we respond 25 years ago, when gasoline’s cost (in today’s dollars) rose to what it is today? It appears that this triggered some intensified efforts to improve fuel economy:


The bigger question is: why did we stop working to improve mpg? In the intervening 25 years, there have always been high-mpg vehicles available: my 8-year-old Honda gets nearly 40 mpg (almost twice the prevailing average), as just one example.

It seems obvious that once gasoline prices dropped, consumers were more interested in increasing the size and horsepower of their vehicles than in reducing their consumption of a polluting and finite resource.

In some states more than others, apparently. Perhaps these price pressures will have the silver lining of changing people’s irresponsible profligacy....

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