Friday, May 05, 2006

Rising Gas Prices

Well, it finally happened. Today, gas prices topped $3.00 per gallon, the fourth consecutive increase in as many days. Just 45 cents to go to hit the $3.50 per gallon by Labor Day that I predicted last September. 45 cents is not an unreasonable figure. Prices have risen that much in just the past month.

Evidently, people haven’t had enough, yet. You still see them, one person to a car, mired in rush hour traffic. Perhaps no one’s driving more these days, but for damned sure few people are driving less.

Conventional wisdom says that when people are fed up with higher gas prices they’ll change their behavior. They’ll walk more, bicycle more, use public transportation more often, buy smaller, more economical vehicles, make fewer trips. Of course, conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong.

While most people would argue for lower gas prices, what we really need is higher prices, something to discourage them from driving SUVs, or even from driving at all. Higher gas taxes would serve that end, as would vehicle weight/mileage taxes and a progressive luxury tax on vehicles costing more than $25,000 (hybrid economy cars excepted).

Maybe gas rationing is the answer. If people were allotted only so much gas a month, surely they would curb their gasoline usage, either through driving more economical vehicles or through driving less.

One thing seems certain, though. If we don’t break our addiction to fossil fuels, our addiction to fossil fuels will break us. Get over it, then get on with it.

And welcome to the new reality.