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Ed Augustus: What’s Fueling High Gas Prices

Friday, March 09, 2012


Ed Augustus GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

Whose fault are these high gas prices anyway? It’s a question that most of us ask every time we spend 50$-60$ to fill up our tanks. You know that, big spike followed by a decline that never quite goes back to the levels prior to the increase? Maybe it’s because of the gas tax? At least that’s what some self-serving politicians usually tell us when they pull out the same old press release each time calling for a suspension of the gas tax as soon as prices start to go up. Or could it be a combination of all the war talk that we’ve heard lately, that’s caused Iran to threaten to close the Strait of Hormuz (through which lots of the world’s oil flows) and thus caused worry and price speculation in the market?

I might suggest that while some combination of those things might be at work in our current situation, the real cold hard fact is that our political system seems to be unable to make the painful and long term decisions necessary to finally substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And please do not give me a “drill baby, drill” answer as if it were a coherent thoughtful policy. That’s an applause line at a political rally, not a solution. Expanding domestic production is fine, except when it means permently compromising irreplaceable natural resources. The current administration has expanded domestic oil production, but this is no silver bullet.

Unless and until our elected leaders and we as citizens and consumers decide once and for all that we are willing to make the permanent and meaningful changes necessary to reduce demand and thus reduce the price, then we will get more of the same. It’s laughable that Newt Gingrich is running around promising if elected he’ll get gas prices down to $2.50 a gallon. This is an example of all that is wrong about our politics, the say anything to get elected strategy. Gingrich argues that there are no hard choices and that consumer behavior doesn’t need to change, the record profits of the oil and gas companies are their right and the huge tax breaks that all the rest of us pay for to help add to those profits are off the table to be reduced or eliminated in efforts to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. Education, vital safety net programs, transportation and many more are all on the table for devastating cuts, but we can’t even entertain the idea of cutting welfare for the record profit making oil and gas companies. Now that’s leadership!

To be clear all of us citizens, voters and consumers are not off the hook when it comes to responsibility. Despite the increases in gas prices over the years we have not in large and significant ways reduced our consumption. As a nation we consume more than twice as much as other countries. The United States with a population about 1/3 that of China consumes more than double the number of barrels per day the Chinese do. Even if we did drill in every potential knock and cranny in this country, there is a point when it will run out and hard choice will remain. Why don’t we have a thoughtful discussion of ways to expand and bring down costs for alternative energy sources and continue to encourage and where necessary (like car fuel standards) force a serious and permanent reduction in consumption? Politicians should stop the pandering and instead do what so many of them say they do, but actually don’t which is to tell it like it is, even if it’s not what we want to hear, that’s what you call leadership. During this Republican presidential primary process that’s been even harder to find then $2.50 a gallon for gas.


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