Monday, September 1, 2008

Driving habits changing?

There isn't one person reading this who hasn't been negatively impacted by the sharp rise of gasoline prices in the last year.

For people who rely on their cars and trucks to make a living, this crisis has been especially tough. Truckers have probably been hit the hardest because it is taking thousands of extra dollars a month just to keep each of those big rigs running.

Additionally, in an effort to avoid life in the big city, lots of people commute from rural areas to their jobs. It makes sense to do this for many reasons.

The primary reason is that living in big cities costs substantially more, but when gas prices shot up, a lot of people re-thought this approach and began moving closer to their jobs.

People who don't drive much have been hurt in indirect ways. Because it costs more to ship food around the country, grocery prices have also spiked upward.

So, in one way or another, we have all paid more because of the gas crisis.

Because of this, an obvious question should be whether or not this problem is forcing us to change our driving habits. After all, if this really is painful, shouldn't we all be changing how we are driving in the hope that supplies will rise and prices will come down? Is this happening?

Based on some recently released statistics, the answer is 'yes.' According to federal government numbers recently reported by USA Today, people in June reduced driving by 12 billion miles compared to the same period in June 2007. This was a reduction of 4.7 percent.

Additionally, oil consumption dropped by 800,000 barrels per day in the first half of 2008 compared to the first half of 2007.

This had to have played a partial role in the recent drop of gasoline prices. After straddling the $4 per gallon level, prices dropped to as low as $3.35 per gallon here locally.

For people living on the financial edge, this drop brought deeps sighs of relief. However, consider the absurdity of it all. Did we ever think that we would get to the point where we would be happy to see gas prices of $3.35 per gallon?

It shows just how irresponsible we have all been when it comes to our dependency on oil. When we allow ourselves to become dependent on one resource, it makes us that much more vulnerable when that resource becomes scarce.

Our irresponsibility was compounded because we rely so much on other countries to supply us oil. America's soft underbelly has been exposed, and it is our dependence on oil.

Of course, the next question should be: Where do we go from here?

It's nice that we have reduced our driving some, but high gas prices are here to stay. I don't see gas prices dropping below $3 per gallon in the foreseeable future. We have shown the marketplace that we will pay that much.

The bottom line is we need to remain committed to conservation and developing other sources of energy.

As the presidential race heats up, voters must press the candidates on what they will do to lessen our dependency on foreign oil.

Just because there has been temporary relief at the gas pump, it doesn't mean this issue is going away. Prices will shoot upward again. It is only a matter of time.

As consumers, we must become more disciplined when it comes to these resources.

It may require sacrifice, but it will be worth it in the long run.

1 comment:

Joltin' Django said...

This was a topic of conversation on a talk show on WVOL (1470 AM) a month or so back. A guy called in and said -- and I'm not joking -- that he guns through more yellow lights in an effort to get home quicker. The show host asked Mr. Red Light if he ever runs red lights. He said, and I quote, "Sometimes. Yup."