A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that the media seems to be under a false impression that just because gas prices were historically low during the 90's, that the current price level must some how magically drop to the mid $1 range in the near future. This obviously flawed logic was leading the "journalists" to conclude that now is the best time to start a long commute/ buy a gas guzzling SUV, since the prices of far out houses and Hummers have taken a nose dive. Because who wants 10 miles to a gallon when a gallon is going to cost over $3?
Well, I finally saw some acknowledgement of the fact that "high" gas prices are here to stay in this article..
But while the article admits that the oil prices will stick for a while, it ignores and notes that most Americans are ignoring the long term implications:
Get used to it, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday as national average prices reached the $3 mark.
Citing pinched supplies, an oil market worried about Mideast politics and recent Atlantic weather, the agency said there was little prospect for price relief before Labor Day and the end of the summer travel season.
So no relief until Labor Day? But if you look at their reasons for the higher prices and the actual long term trends, none of them will slacken post-labor day, or at all in the further future.
To note their reasons first: Anyone think that the Mideast situation is going to be solved after Labor Day? Anyone? Of course not, the region has been in turmoil for decades or centuries or since 3000 BC, depending on how you want to count; and the fundamental underlying conflict in the region is not going to be resolved even if Israel agrees to a cease fire. As for the current storm season, I could go into excruciating detail on how we need to get used to more turbulent weather, or you can just go watch an Inconvenient Truth.
But the underlying reasons for the "increase" in gas prices (the reason I keep quoting words like "increase" is that I think that it is quite clear that these are more natural price levels for gasoline and past prices were artificially low) are even more frightening for the future. The main two driving factors are that we are not discovering any more oil reserves, the ones we have are being depleted as quickly as possible, and the demand is rapidly increasing due in part to growth of developing nations, who contain well over half the world's population. Obviously, these are all things that are going to magically disappear come Labor Day.
But the article is interesting in another way also: the article points out that these prices have not decreased the American demand for gas, just that we cannot pay for it now:
Americans already seem used to high prices. Demand is running 2 percent higher than last summer, the energy agency said, when motorists paid about 70 cents less per gallon. Customers haven't stopped pumping gas, but some have stopped paying for it with cash.
Ah, the magic of credit cards. Instead of realizing the costs of their lifestyle, Americans are shifting the burden to the future (maybe there is a reason Bush won?).
This failure to realize the costs of unquestioning loyalty to lifestyles based around the automobile ties in with Anglico's post on planning yesterday. We seem to be in a state of denial. No need to consider the long-term impacts of our lifestyles or growth decisions. We can just charge the gas and make some nonsensical argument about how everyone will telecommute in the future or how gas prices will come down after Labor Day (or when they do not, how they will come down after Flag Day or Arbor day or some random day). America and North Carolina needs to wake up now before our future is mortgaged even further.