Sound Off

Open Thread: Embrace That $8 Gasoline

UPDATE: A number of you say you've got no choice but to buy gas. We hear you. Now the national average has hit $4 a gallon, we'd like to know where you're trimming back in order to fill your tank.

On today's show, Chris Pummer argues that higher prices at the pump are good for everyone.

If the price goes to $8, Pummer says, we'll all be forced to make serious changes in our habits. For starters, we're looking at the end of the internal combustion engine. Will the pump charge hurt our pocketbooks? Yeah, sure, he writes, in a column for MarketWatch. But we could use a little tough love.

You good with that?



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I saw this story on the rundown list this morning and I just got really really angry. I thought "who can honestly ignore the entire middle section of the country which is largely without public transport (except Chicago) and think that $8 gas is okay?!"

Sure, $8 gas is okay for people who live anywhere with good public transportation. I live in Omaha. Omaha has a bus system (that sucks on toast anywhere but Downtown and Midtown). I do not live anywhere near a bus stop. How does that work, you ask? I live in a different county than Omaha proper. Our area of the US goes by a county tax system. My taxes go to a county without a bus system. On top of that, there are only sidewalks in residental areas and shopping areas. If I wanted to bike 2.5 miles to the nearest grocery store (very do-able), I wouldn't be very safe because there aren't any sidewalks between my apartment and the store. Pretty much, the only way to get anywhere using the least amount of miles is to use a highway or an interstate and there just plain aren't any sidewalks on either of those roadways. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to be taken down by an SUV going 65 while I'm putzing around on my bike.

And before you say "just move somewhere else," I ask that you consider the absurdity of those words.

It would be nice if we could get national public trasit regulations but I doubt most people would put up with that. The only thing on which I agree with Pummer is that if gas goes up to a very high price, we'll see big differences in alternative transport more quickly. Though if that happens and I still don't have public trasportation, I might as well not be in existence since I couldn't even afford to go to work. I already have to get a second job to pay down my student loans in less than 25 years. Sucktastic.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 10:21 AM | 6-3-2008

Unfortunately for the free market theorists, humans take the path of least resistance unless forced another direction. Europe pays upwards of $8 a gallon, with about 80% of that being taxes that go towards fixing their roads and developing clean energy. While some trucks are required for specific work, even they are primarily marketed as a luxury ride now. No one should own an SUV and I have no sympathy if you're complaining about putting $75 in every 3 days.

The fact of the matter is that it has been U.S. policy since the Reagan administration (with support from Big Oil and the Big 3) to keep automobile mileage standards low to keep oil and gasoline prices high. U.S. based car manufactures still kick and scream when the issue comes up - it is about time market pressures came to bear on the complacent customer. The pain will pass, but it is well deserved after the decades of "not my problem" attitudes when it came to the U.S. markets. Vindictive? Perhaps, but that happens a fair bit when you traffic in reality -- it's hard not to smirk when the people floating in la-la land come crashing down to earth.

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 10:22 AM | 6-3-2008

I would be happier to pay $8/gallon if a large portion of the cost was an environmental tax - a penalty for habits harmful to the earth - that in turn funded alternative energy research. This is the huge proverbial slap on the wrist our economy needs.

Sent by aboyandhispiano | 10:24 AM | 6-3-2008

I think the real issue is that we won't have a choice about whether gas is going to cost $8/gal. Already folks are making personal choices to change how they drive with $4/gal. gas. The real choice is whether we are going to believe the fantasy that gas prices will ever come down in any significant way. With the emergence of China and India and their demand for oil, I frankly doubt it.

What will be our society's response to high gas prices? Already we see calls for absurd gas tax relief and draining of the strategic petroleum reserve. This is not going to solve the previous poster's problem in Omaha. I think every city is going to have to fix their bus systems and start moving to light or commuter rail. This will require taxes. Will there be local gas taxes or just property taxes? I don't know but there will be tax increases to support the creation of new infrastructure.

We can believe in the fantasy of gas price relief or work to minimize the effects and retain our wealth instead of shipping it to our neutral "allies" or even our enemies in the Middle East. It is our choice.

Sent by Andrew W. Donoho | 10:50 AM | 6-3-2008

It's pretty easy to make sweeping statements about what would benefit society at large or the American macroeconomy. After all, we all know what's best for everyone, right? Plummer makes excellent points, as do the commenters above. My two bits, as a non-driver for five years (well before gas prices went crazy): Yes, I covet the freedom and capabilities that a car would allow me. Not being able to go on road trips or shop at certain grocery stores without borrowing my roommate's car or grabbing a car-share vehicle is lame. As such, I can only transport what I can carry while biking or bussing. It sucks, but I've also noticed some interesting side effects. I've become more invested in my local community, since I am more likely to frequent the businesses or meeting places that I pass by everyday. My neighborhood has gotten smaller, in a sense; the city has been truncated, but what I lack in quantity or convenience, I make up for in quality. My bartender knows my name, not because I'm a lush but because I'll drop by to say hey when I drop off a DVD at the rental place. I've run into the gal who works at the rental place at the grocery store, and the grocery store clerk who usually rings me up knows more about my life than my mother ever since we hit it off at the dog park.

What's the point of all of this? Drive less, stay close, and you'll find your small neighborhood is much larger than you think. And you'll save tons on gas.

Sent by Erica | 12:11 PM | 6-3-2008

I'm (for the time being) American.
I lived for many years in rural America without a car. I live in Europe now. I don't have a car anymore.

$8/gallon here would be a price decrease. It costs $9+/gallon. People use bicycles/trains/buses. They own one car per family. The cars get 50+ miles/gallon. They have smaller homes and walk to the grocery store, etc.

I quit my job because it was too expensive to drive to work and I didn't want to move. Now I can bicycle to my new job.

Anyone can adapt their lifestyle to not having a car or to at least using it a lot less. You may not like having to make the sacrifice. I didn't want to quit my job either. Life is about making choices.

Sent by Nathan in Holland | 12:31 PM | 6-3-2008

$8 gas will be fine in the post-internal combustion era. But for now, as Sarah Lee points out, a huge number of us are screwed if we get to $8 as things stand.

The "$8 per gallon is good" argument particularly doesn't sit well when oil companies continue to make record profits every quarter. Is there some way to truly incentivize them to invest their vast resources in low- or no-carbon alternatives? I don't even have the resources to invest in a Prius, so I don't feel like I should pay the oil companies' fair share for them.

I'm listening to the podcast as I write this and I just heard Mark Garrison say that "GM's CEO says the Hummer brand might go away". Possibly the best news all day.

Sent by Maura | 12:54 PM | 6-3-2008

I think it would be a good point to see how this would change the lifestyles of people rural and urban and how we can help both.

I think we need to start creating rvehicles that will use alternative fuels or sources. I would love to see and hear more news on that!

Sent by Natasha | 1:42 PM | 6-3-2008

@Nathan in Holland, while I agree that Americans complain far too much about the price of fuel in comparison to the prices in the rest of the world, I also empathize with Sarah Lee (surprised?). I've lived in a part of San Diego that, for all intents and purposes, didn't have any public transportation (two bus lines which took one hour to get to a location I could drive in 10 minutes, with only hourly frequency). But, that's where I could afford to live. When I got out of debt, I resolved that I didn't care what part of the County I would live, so long as it near a train or trolley station. I bought a condo in Chula Vista 1.5 miles from the trolley station. I only fill up my hybrid (God, I'm such a tree-hugger) once a month. So, making life choices to adapt to higher gas prices is possible, but, sadly, such life choices are easier when other financial issues are already settled. Remember the campaign story Obama told of the unemployed man who couldn't find work because he couldn't afford the fuel to fill up his car so that he look for a job? A lot of people, especially in this recession, are in that spot.

@Sarah Lee, unless your senator in Lincoln (yes, I happen to know that Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) gets something working to get public transportation much less something better than buses (yuck), the only other thing I can think of is scouring the local fast food restaurants to bogart their grease traps for bio-diesel. Not a appetizing thought, I know, but your car will smell like french fries. Seriously, though, when people, especially liberal economists, say this or that item must be more expensive "to reflect the real costs," they don't seem to understand that real people who need those items aren't in a financial place for such reflection.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 1:44 PM | 6-3-2008

We have had decades to work out the easy way to fix our dependence on fossil fuels, but we lacked the political leadership and popular support. Cities could have been working on improving public transportation and pedestrian and bicycle routes, but most chose not to. It just wasn't "a priority." The previous governor of my fair Colorado even tried to get the taxes that the citizens imposed on themselves for public transportation moved into highway funding. Thankfully that didn't work. The only way I see out of this predicament now is pain. As Sarah Lee and others start to feel pain they will make their local governments feel pain and things will start to get done. It is most unfortunate that some people who are barely scraping by now will be hurt even more. I hope we can find a way to help them.

This problem is on auto pilot now. Our government cannot realistically reduce the cost of energy. To do so we'd have to borrow more money which would further devalue the dollar which would increase the cost of energy. This is just one of the reasons the gas tax holiday is such a bad idea. The best solution now is a carbon tax. Yes gas would go even higher, but at least we would have some revenue to work on the problem. I think this is unlikely in the next few years however. What I expect to happen is for our federal government to mess around with politically-safe non-solutions while the ever increasing cost of energy will force us to conserve and look for alternative energy sources. In the long run this will do more damage to our economy and cause more harm to our citizens than a carbon tax, but this is the price we pay for apathy.

In the mean time we probably have a few years to get used to the idea of $8 gas. As we decide where to live, work, shop, how to get around, how many children to have, and entertain ourselves keep energy costs in mind. Ask yourself, if you had seen the current situation coming 10 years ago what decisions would you have made differently?

Sent by Dave Wiley | 2:52 PM | 6-3-2008

I kind of like the idea of my car smelling like delicious french fries. I'd put a sign on my car that reads "Smells not free." Heh.

I did recheck the bus schedule and from what I could glean, the particular buses I'd need to take don't run early enough. I did make an email inquiry to make sure since the bus schedule is in some kind of foreign code that I can't crack. I may see how long it takes to bike to work. It's pretty hilly and I have to be to work at 6:45am so it may be a little precarious starting in the dark. Anyway, the thought of working exercise into something I have to do every day instead of making time for it is appealing. I have to fix those two flat tire tubes on my bike first...

And something I was just wondering, to those of you who bike to work or wherever else you need to go. If the forecast is rain or storms, do you still bike and just take it if it's raining?

Sent by Sarah Lee | 3:24 PM | 6-3-2008

@Sarah -- I bike to work frequently, and early in the morning. If the weather's lousy or I'm just not feeling like it, I'll take the train (lucky for that in NYC). You might be surprised at how comfortable a bike can be in the heat of summer or cold of winter.

Thing is, you may be able to find a route that suits you -- at least enough to ride in some of the time. And some of the time is cheaper than none.

Sent by Laura Conaway, NPR | 3:29 PM | 6-3-2008

The more I think about it during the day, the better it sounds. Literally, north of my apartment is Omaha and tons of sidewalks, a couple blocks south is Bellevue and no sidewalks. Thankfully I'm going north and that mapquest has a mapping option to avoid highways.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 3:46 PM | 6-3-2008

@Sarah Lee, I bike to the trolley station (1.5 miles, big deal). And, since this is San Diego, we don't have rain or storms; we have drizzle --and don't get me started about how bad San Diegans drive when it's drizzling.

However, I grew up in Chicago, so I know what real weather is. When it got real bad, I'd get behind the wheel. If it's just a sprinkle or a light shower, it was no worries, since I had a standard bike with fat tires. If it's just cold, I would put on an extra layer and gloves, even if it's warm enough without gloves because of the wind.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 3:55 PM | 6-3-2008

@Sarah Lee: "And something I was just wondering, to those of you who bike to work or wherever else you need to go. If the forecast is rain or storms, do you still bike and just take it if it's raining?"

Yup. Fenders help a lot. I also keep a $3 poncho in my backpack at all times just in case the weather does something unexpected, although when rain is forecast I opt for the better two-piece rain gear. Ski goggles make it much easier to see through the rain and keep your face dry. The clothes we have now are amazing. I always wear street clothes underneath, but water-proof microfiber jackets and waterproof gloves are two inventions I wish had been around when I was a kid.

Summer is pure bliss. On a bicycle there is always a nice breeze.

I'll echo what Laura said. Riding when you can is a good way to get into it, and route selection is key. Sometimes the best bicycle routes are very different than the best car routes. I went back and forth between riding and driving for a few years before taking the plunge and selling my car. Now my two biggest decisions each morning are which tea to drink and which bicycle to ride.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 4:09 PM | 6-3-2008

My husband and I live in a small(200pop.) community in a Midwest state--say again "public transportation". I drive a small car 52 miles one way to work every day, It is the closest job I can find. We own a small family farm 160A. and he also does plumbing and heating work on the side. The farming will become a very negative cash flow idea should we have $8.00 wheat--as gas prices go up so does the cost of working the land, not only for the actual fuel but also fertilizer, chemicals which are required to have a crop with any kind of yield. Yes the price in the market has gone up but as the fuel cost went up the market is going back down. Where is America going to purchase it's food when all of the small farmers are out of business and food is grown and marketed by just a few companies like oil is now? We are 5 years from retirement--move to where we could walk to work.
Back to small town rural America--We are between two larger towns 35 miles either direction, possibly on our way to becoming a bedroom community--the town has a bank, gas station, post office, library, and school--whoops the school closed at the end of the year. There were 20 businesses in 1950.
We were in hopes to draw people here that would like the idea of small town living and maybe work via Internet, we're finding there is not enough of the needed amemines left to draw people here. Very shortly there will not be a tax base to take care of water, sewer, and grade our gravel roads. Move-you say- our $20,000 house would be a downpayment on a $90,000 house anywhere else and no hopes of finding a job to pay for it. $8.00 a gallon gas would just hasten the demise of the town, small farmers, and much of rural America.

Sent by Edie E | 4:56 PM | 6-3-2008

As an environmentalist, I do think $8 gasoline would drive positive behavioral change in a way that good intentions do not. But, as Edie E says persuasively, many communities simply do not have access to public transportation. This is also a major issue keeping Americans in poverty: without reliable transportation to work and to grocery stores, kids' doctors, etc. (along with many other factors), it's hard to hold down a job. $8 gas would kill many rural communities, and could push many people below the poverty line.

It would be nice if there were some way to make $8 gas hit the people who make decisions about public transportaion without bankrupting people who have no viable alternatives. I'll volunteer to pay it, though I've yet to find a good way to the office that doesn't take thrice as long as driving.

Sent by Megan | 5:59 PM | 6-3-2008

I live in rural Pennsylvania and I'm too handicapped to bike let alone walk. Without a car I would starve or freeze. Fools who think $8 gasoline is good should visit the home-bound serviced by health-care providers who have to pay for their own transportation without reimbursement. These people work for $8-10 an hour and have clients spread far and wide, and some are quitting their jobs because they can't afford the expense. What will Plummer do for them?

Sent by Sharon Jarvis | 6:00 PM | 6-3-2008

At the risk of dating myself, I recall the 1980 campaign when 3rd party candidate said the best thing for America would be a 50-cent a gallon tax on gas and that would force us to change our ways. You'd have thought he suggested beheading half the population! Smart man that John ... and ahead of his time.

At $4.15 I am reviewing my options and I have a 5-mile commute. My fear is $5, $6, $7 a gallon heating oil. THAT will be deadly for many people. Is already $4.15 a gallon and I am wondering how I will heat the house come winter.

Change MUST come.

Sent by David Hollis | 7:51 PM | 6-3-2008

The economy in America can not handle
4 dollar gas and at 8 the country will
collapse. It will take 20 years for develpers to buy up down town properties thrugh the new eminent domain laws and displace the inner cities poor to the rural areas and the new slums in the suburbs. Perhaps Mr. Plummer is one the 5 percent of the American population that can handle 8$ gas. But fo 95 percent of us it will ruin us, and 50 percent will starve to death. Maybe That's part of the master plan. Sounds diabolical.

Sent by Brett | 10:49 PM | 6-3-2008

@Sharon Jarvis: "These people work for $8-10 an hour and have clients spread far and wide, and some are quitting their jobs because they can't afford the expense. What will Plummer do for them?"

I sympathize with these people, but $8 gas is not an option. It is inevitable. It will drive the changes that we need to make to survive as a civilization. As to how to get around -- electric vehicles excel short distance driving.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:20 AM | 6-4-2008

Mr Pummer: you haven't a clue. Like so many other media folks unconnected to the real world, you simply don't understand how this country works, and how the people in it live and work day to day. I commute 62 miles each way to work. That's approximately 1000 gallons of gas per year. Every dollar increase of gas results in another thousand per year I am paying.

I make $76k per year, and my wife makes $34k. We own a small ranch home, she has a 2004 Chevy and I drive a 1995 Honda. We have no toys (boats, snowmobiles, etc.) and one 17 year old child. We are BARELY making it. I have accumulated $22k of credit card debt just trying to stay above water. We are not the exception.

Your statement about $8 gas helping America is insane and naive. Do I want an alternative to gas? Yes. Do I like supplying enemies of this country with the money we pay for our gasoline and oil? No. Do I have another choice? No. $8 gasoline will destroy this economy, raise the prices of anything that is delivered by truck, and on and on. Would I like an alternative to internal combustion engines? Yes. But in the mean time my family and millions of other American families have to survive. The increasing cost of oil is threatening our very way of life, and yet our government continues to stand in the way of increasing the supply of this commodity at every turn. And then they have the audacity to hold ludicrous hearings trying to make the oil company executives the fall guy for a problem the government is responsible for. Talk about hypocrisy.

There are billions of barrels of oil available in our country and along our coastlines, but instead of taking advantage of this the government forbids these oil companies from drilling for it, which will allow oil companies from China and elsewhere to tap into it. Please take your pathetic liberal agenda and shove it. It's people like you that will and are destroying this country.

Sent by Jeff Roe | 12:25 AM | 6-4-2008

8.00 a gallon? Everybody watch the welfare lines soar in size along with your taxes. Someone has to pay the cost of oil profits. I live a hour from work because the area I live in has no work, or it's 10.00 an hour. Sorry, it's not a livable wage. I moved here because housing was cheaper 20 years ago. Whoops! My mistake I guess! I commute to work and back, that's it! No extra trips, no vacations, I skimp. I will say George Bush is help[ing me buy a pellet stove with my 'refund'.(my money anyway)Make all the excuses you want, oil companys are raping everyone...Holland? Biking will leave more money for Nathan to pick out a whore from some hotel window in Amsterdam...........

Sent by kim groff | 5:50 AM | 6-4-2008

This guy is insane. I understand his reasoning in theory, but in practice it is unrealistic. For example, I just bought a new car, after 17 years. I had a 1991 Nissan Sentra, which I kept to give to my now 16 year old daughter, that has 250,000+ miles on it! After test driving 4 cars, I decided on another Nissan Sentra as the most bang for my buck, including gas mileage. It is a very fuel efficient vehicle, but $8 a gallon would put even it in the garage, and me with little to no extracurricalar activities, not to mention none for the kids. I have always done my best to protect the environment, but $8 a gallon would bankrupt the middle class and under. The lag in time for the conversion to non-fossil fuels would be cumbersome to navigate, and the middle class and under would bear the brunt of it. As bad as it would be for me if we had $8 a gallon gas, I cannot imagine how it would be for someone working minimum wage, or even less that $10 per hour. I actually cannot imagine how they are making it now with it at $4 a gallon!! This man has not thought his ideas through, that is clear.

Sent by Paula | 10:21 AM | 6-4-2008

"If the trend from 2002 holds (meaning that the price rise since 2007 is an anomalous spike, and that the price rise will revert to the previous trend) we can expect a price of $225/bbl in 2012." Source:

$225 would equate to around $8/gallon in just 5 years. The posts above seem to bemoan 'how can we possibly deal with this, the man is insane!', welcome to the reality people have been screaming about since the gas crunch in the 70's.

A major shift in American habits and ethos is GOING to happen. To anyone (like Nathan) who's seen how Europe and other countries have dealt with this, you know substantial changes can happen to deal with market forces such as these. A lot of people are going to suffer and sacrifices will be made, but you can take comfort in two things: the politicians you elected allowed this to happen and Americans need a good kick in the rear.

And just to brighten your day, there also is a projection that if oil continues at pace it started on in late 2007, we could be looking at $900/barrel. Enjoy the $4/gallon while it lasts!

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 11:03 AM | 6-4-2008

I understand about changing to an alternative fuel. But what about the average person who cannot afford to buy a hybrid. I know a lot of people out there that barely make a livable wage and it's been eaten up with the high cost of gas.

I live in Vermont and live in the big city of Burlington. I'm only 5 miles from my job. But others I know , live 40 miles or more away. They can't afford to live in Burlington. They just don't make enough. In a way , they are trapped.

While all the politicians decide what to do, the people that barley make a living will suffer the most.

Sent by Paul Kelley | 11:18 AM | 6-4-2008

@Paula: "It is a very fuel efficient vehicle, but $8 a gallon would put even it in the garage, and me with little to no extracurricular activities, not to mention none for the kids."

This sort of thinking has to change. There is no reason why entertainment must involve a car. When I was growing up most games were not organized and our parents were not involved. We played stick ball, tag, dodge ball, and hide-and-go seek... sometimes simultaneously. We had tons of fun and exercise. Now parents believe that games must involve organization, uniforms, extensive travel, and regional, state, and national championships and this starts at about kindergarten age. You can't just play baseball; you must compete! Games must have rules and the rules are unchanging and strictly enforced. How boring. How not what a child needs. I never had so much fun as playing HORSE with my family especially with aunt Wanda and her famous "Caveman in the Bushes Shot".

There are tons of fun things to do around the house, the yard, and the neighborhood. My wife and I work crosswords, read, bike, hike, bird watch, take in art openings, go out to dinner, hole up at local B&B's, garden, and visit friends, and driving plays no part in this. At our most indulgent we'll hop a bus to nearby Boulder.

We Americans have been seduced by the notion that entertainment must take travel and our stimulation must come from external sources. Baseball became "America's Pastime" not because we watched it, but because we played it! This sentiment is fast going the way of the dodo. Hopefully $8 gas can reverse the trend.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:37 PM | 6-4-2008

This was written by Abraham Lincoln.

Maybe it will show that history repeats itself.

* What Lincoln Foresaw: Corporations Being "Enthroned" After the Civil War and Re-Writing the Laws Defining Their Existence
"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end.
It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . .
It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes
me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war,
corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places
will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong
its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth
is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety
of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.
God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."
* The passage appears in a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkin

Sent by Paul Kelley | 12:53 PM | 6-4-2008

$8/gallon makes sense to me. As it is, driving a car costs about the same as taking the bus or train! What's up with that? Is it any wonder that public transit outside of big cities is underused?

Within the next few years, we are finally (finally!) going to see public transit become the cheaper option for all people--not just people who don't have cars. Increased demand will spur local transit authorities to add routes and increase frequency. It may even make employers adopt more flexible schedules to accommodate bus commuters. That in turn will make the bus an actually viable way of getting to work.

Now, can someone please explain how increased availably of good public transit is going to hurt poor people?

Sent by Edward Noodlethwaite | 12:54 PM | 6-4-2008

My opposition to $8/gall gas is this: the suburbs. If I took a bus for about two hours one way to get to work and got rid of my car, there is no way I could afford childcare for someone else to watch my children for me. I have a Carolla which gets 35 mpg in town and 40 mpg on highway trips. So when there are enough jobs near where I live, then I can get rid of the car. That won't ever happen for me or for most in this country. That's a stupid idea. Sorry, but had to say it.

Sent by T. Weiss | 4:01 PM | 6-4-2008

Laura, you just twittered "Why can't I find anyone to talk to me about $8 gas?"

Because we're in denial!?

If we talk about it, that might mean we have to accept the possible reality of it!

State of Denial
jacksoncj1 (twitter name)

Sent by Cynthia J. Jackson | 4:09 PM | 6-4-2008

Why not have 8 dollar gallon of milk, or eggs, or how about 8 dollar gallon of water? How foolish the writer is to even consider that by increasing cost it will help our economy. I commute in the Los Angeles nightmare traffic two hours up and back to work everyday. I already drop a fortune on fuel. The transportation here is not good at all. The U.S. is becoming a melting pot as we speak, our national identity is fading in puff of smoggy smoke that lurks between the governments breath

Sent by peter | 4:43 PM | 6-4-2008

I love ERica's comment. I have had the same experience. After I shifted my POV from having to drive a car to trying to NOT drive it, I found the same thing: my community has grown smaller and I know the small business owners, who I never would have even *seen* because I would have gone to Starbucks instead of the local cafe because it is more convenient to the highway. Now I ride my bike, walk, and/or ride the bus. Now I *use* the parking lots in local shopping malls to cut my commute shorter and I do a lot of waving, too. Try it. You'll like it. Scare a car today!

Sent by Ellen Wilkin | 10:25 PM | 6-4-2008

What amazes me the most about all of the pontificating by columnists such as Mr. Plummer, is that they fail to take into account the reality that the demise of internal combustion engines does not equal America's independence from oil either foreign or domestic. Gasoline for vehicles constitutes approximately 20% of the oil used in this country. Any guess on what the other 80% might be? That's right, everything you see around you. Try to think of any manufacturing process that does not require petroleum of some form. Unless we all revert to an economy in which we each make our own goods, someone somewhere making those goods will have a plant with machines that require lubrication. And I think its fair to assume that plastics will not being going the way of the dinosaur any time soon.
So when 8 dollar a gallon gas kills the demand for internal combustion engines, the cost of everything except our vehicles goes correspondingly through the roof. That is supposed to be a good thing?
I am consistently baffled at how the animosity by some for the automotive industry creates such a myopic view of the real and potentially devastating sacrifices to be made if we want to truly be oil independent. And do you really think they are having this discussion in China? They of course will continue to consume petroleum at an ever increasing rate as there economy expands, and will only pick up any slack we might create by consuming less oil. This of course still leaves the "governments and dictators propped up by oil" doing what they know how to do best. Make profits from something that everyone in the world will continue to need to maintain or improve their standard of living.
Getting rid of vehicles won't make a significant dent in our overall need as a country to consume oil, and until people come to terms with this reality all the solutions and finger pointing by these experts will mean nothing.

Sent by Matthew Fansler | 11:07 PM | 6-4-2008

For those of us living and working in rural areas, the cost of gas and diesel fuel is killing us. We do not have the option of public transportation, or even carpooling in most instances. I drive a pickup, because I need one for the farm, and I can't afford to have more than one vehicle. I have considered buying a scooter for my 10 mile commute to work, but so far this spring there would have been very few days that I could have ridden it, due to the incredibly rainy weather we've had. I've tried to consolodate my trips, and cut out all unnecesary travel. There are so many items that are made from petroleum, and nearly all of our merchandise is transported by semi rather than by rail. The cost of all the things we buy is rising along with the cost of gas. I don't know how anyone can say that $8 gas would be beneficial!

Sent by Becky | 8:49 AM | 6-5-2008

The general public is already piling bills up on their desks because they can hardly afford the necessities. I am one of these people. I have a stack of bills that need to be paid, but I have to choose to put food on the table and gasoline in the cars so that we can go to work and attempt to make it through. I don't even have children!!!! I can't imagine how hard it is for people with children! The price of gas goes up, the price of food goes up. If or when gas goes up to $8/gallon what will I have to sacrifice then? Hopefully I'll have my credit under control and be in a better financial spot, but there's a lot of people who won't be. We are digging ourselves deeper and deeper and who's going to do something so that we can begin to dig ourselves out? I think the logic behind $8/gallon is effed up. There are many areas in this country that are not conducive to mass transportation....and they never will be, what will those people do? I'm not saying change can't happen, but there are so many other economic problems to consider and making gas $8/gallon will not force change. It may be a population control tactic I'm sure people will freeze to death in their homes if they even have a home at that point, starve to death...things like that.

Sent by Liz Mayoka | 9:40 AM | 6-5-2008

I have now been mocked by Mike Pesca on National Radio. That's another check on my 50 before 50 list. :-) No offense taken, Mike, and you and Rachel ask a good question.

I don't have kids, but my parents did (imagine!) and the way I live now is very much the way I was raised. My parents selected a house that was centered between the three schools us kids would attend and my dad's job. We walked and biked everywhere. My parents did own a car that was used mostly for errands and vacation so they aren't quite as nutty as I am. (I think that grammar is right. It sounds stuffy though.) If we complained about being bored my mother would find something for us to do usually involving pulling weeds or shoveling the driveway. We got really good at finding our own entertainment out of earshot usually with other kids who were dodging their own moms. I think my mother did this on purpose to protect her sanity.

I know parents who are raising families without cars so it is doable. In fact he BPP did a story on one such guy. Was it "no impact man"? I think it ran last fall.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 9:52 AM | 6-5-2008

Ha :) nice riff on Dave Wiley.

I did get an email back from the Metro Bus website. It would take an hour and twenty minutes and 3 bus changes to get from my apartment to work and then I'd have to do it all again to get back home. As previously stated, I only live 7 miles away from work...

Sent by Sarah Lee | 10:37 AM | 6-5-2008

"Mommy, mommy, I'm too poor to drive 120 miles round trip to work! Poor little me! Booo hoo!"

My family makes less than $35K a year, and I'm not complaining! Jeff Roe's family makes $100K and he's "barely scraping by?" Ridiculous!! Jeff, if you have to drive to work in order to support your current lifestyle, you had better be willing to pay for it without whining like a spoiled kid. You aren't entitled to anything. Mommy's not going to bail you out with subsidies forever, so shape up and put the money down. I did.

P.S. To Sarah Lee: I bike 7 miles to work every day. It's great exercise and it saves money. You can do it!

Sent by Zac | 11:58 AM | 6-5-2008

$8 Dollar gas would be extreme to happen immediately.

But over a 3 years, I welcome a jump to $8 gas, as long as we knew it was coming, we could shift our dependencies, develop commercial districts on sites of foreclosed homes in suburbs, so that people didn't have to drive 5 miles to get to a grocery store.

We'd buy a fuel efficient non wasteful car the next time we bought one, and we'd sell our SUV's to someone who legitimately needs something that hauls a boat and 5 kids around, rather than using it for our 1 person trips to blockbuster.

I will admit it wouldn't effect me all that much, because I bike to work already (I'm an intern in Cincinnati), and when I go to my parents single family home in Chicago, I take Megabus, because I plan ahead, then the train, and I spend a total of $3.25 on a good trip, and the dreaded $17.25 on a bad trip.

There are other ways to reduce how gas prices effect you, but if you make those changes, you have just made your finances more stable. So next time oil barons can't ruin your peace of mind.

Sent by jake | 12:55 PM | 6-5-2008

Keep Preaching Wiley, I grew up in a rural town, spent my formative years in the suburbs, and now live as a young professional in urban Washington DC. Each and every environment has exposed me and my family to varying infrastructural intricacies and transportation challenges; but not without hidden rewards. In a country obsessed with cheap plastic crap, perpetual dieting, and tangible status symbols $8 gasoline may be the first of many epiphanies which encourage a slow and sustainable shift in our actions as families, consumers, neighbors, and citizens towards pedestrian and mass transit opportunities (and that includes carpools for my Midwestern friends) that will greatly benefit our mind body and soul. Embrace your hood, and let it embrace you.

Sent by Micah | 1:54 PM | 6-5-2008

I feel like the divisions on this topic aren't necessrily as deep as they seem. I'm definitely on the "let's try to avoid $8 gas" side, but I also want to use less petroleum as an individual and for us all to do so as a nation.

I just think there has to be a better way to get there than by inflicting poverty on still more of the population while oil companies and their executives get exponentially more rich every year.

I do take local, state, and national candidates' energy policies into account when deciding who to vote for, but I rarely encounter candidates whose policies are a radical and forward-thinking departure from the status quo.

I just think that if I'm expected to move 60 miles to be close to work, live in an urban environment when I prefer the country, and share an apaprtment so I can afford to be there, then oil companies and politicians should think outside of the box a bit their own selves to try and take some of this huge burden off us little guys.

I sure don't know how to do it, but can't somebody come up with a way to make it profitable for the likes of Chevron and BP to invest in alternative energies?

Sent by Maura | 3:20 PM | 6-5-2008

The important factor is the speed with which the price increases. If the price instantly changed from $4 to $8, that would cause a lot of problems.

If it changed slowly enough, people would complain (with their vote and their pocketbook) and new options would eventually appear.

Some kind of gas tax might be a good idea as a way to smooth out the rate of change. But nobody knows what the rate of increase would look like naturally, so there's no way to correctly pick what that tax should be.

The idea of one-story employer-free suburbs may well strike us all as quaint and ridiculous, a generation from now. If I were living in one, I'd at least be thinking about options for hedging my bets, maybe by moving and/or changing jobs. Maybe it wouldn't end up being necessary, but it seems like thinking ahead would be more useful, from one's own selfish perspective, than tilting at gas price windmills.


Sent by Wesley Tanaka | 3:20 AM | 6-6-2008

I'm reading the opinions on this thread and I can't believe some of the things I'm hearing... a lot of what I'm reading is just whining...

There is no doubt that $8 gas would be a hardship on a lot of families -- it would certainly force some people into lower tax brackets and even welfare. And absolutely would make people reevaluate their lifestyles... (As if that were a bad thing in this country!?) But when I hear statements like "the country is going to fall apart" and "the middle class is going to starve and freeze to death", I have to laugh in disbelief. Talk like that really reveals how disconnected we as Americans have become with reality.

We are so spoiled in this country that we have this ingrained notion of a "divine right" to luxury... Has anybody in this discussion ever been to a 3rd World Country or even a less developed nation? Even in the worst circumstances we live like kings in this country... We don't want for food, housing, hospital care or employment... and when we do there is always several helping hands nearby. Poverty is not needing food stamps or being unemployed for 6 months... real hardship is having a distended belly because you haven't eaten for a week or having to dodge missiles and gunfire because you live in a warzone. Relatively speaking, higher gas prices are pretty low on the hardship totem pole.

A couple of points:
- Automobiles have only been around for the last 100 years... what is it you think we did before that? If oil suddenly dried up overnight, do you really think humanity would perish?
- There are plenty of alternative transportation to cars: public transportation (when available), motorcycles & scooters (they get anywhere from 60-100 mpg!), bicycling, walking, skateboarding & roller skating (maybe we wouldn't be so obese), domestic animals like horses & mules (for you rural citizens -- you know the gas crunch isn't having the same effect on the Amish)
- To everyone talking about the "death of rural America": Read your history books! How do you think your little towns started in the first place? By strong people making do with what they had... by living off the land, growing their own food and building their own housing... (BTW - Rural living is not driving to work 35-50 miles each day -- that's called trying to have your cake and eat it too (and is the kind of extremely wasteful practices that we need to cut down upon).
- Change is a natural part of life... read Darwin -- those that can't/won't change don't typically last very long in nature. The world is what you make of it... if you can't survive in your current habitat -- move; if you can't make ends meet by driving to your job -- get a new job; if you can't afford to feed your children -- get help... in this country, people who suffer do so of their own laziness or ignorance; (I have much more sympathy for the homeless guy on the corner who has a legitimate mental illness then I do for the guy who can't get off of unemployment because he refuses to work at McDonalds)
- To those who disagree with Mr. Pummer's assessment that higher gas prices will actually benefit the country economically in the long run... study free market economics -- his theory is actually pretty sound and is in line with historical US economic policy
- Finally: To those who see this phenomenon as the end of the world... be thankful you didn't grow up in earlier centuries. Real problems occur during wartime, during famines, disease and real economic disasters like the Great Depression... if you think the fire is a little hot now you definitely wouldn't have made it back then.

I'm sorry this comes across as negative... but I hate it when people sell themselves short. You would be surprised what us human beings are capable of once we take off the gloves and decide to get dirty. Will $8 gas be painful and difficult? Yes... But will it kill us? Only if we let it.

Sent by Dan | 12:19 PM | 6-6-2008

I'm an Engineer from California, and the main problem cars that are not powered by combustion engine is that, well you still have to get an energy to power cars from someplace.

It's not a problem to build a electrical car, because already all of our cars are powered by electricity. This electricity currently is produced by combustion of gasoline in the engine.

A car that can store energy by plugging a wire to a socked in a wall, would still required to take that energy from someplace else.

Currently that large majority of that energy is produced by combustion of coal in power plants. Coal produces even more pollution (not only CO2 and CO but also a lot of heavy metals) then a combustion engine. Not only that, but to get an energy getting energy from wall sockets to power a car is very inefficient. Imagine this. The coal is burned, then used to heat up water, to produce steam, to power turbine, to get electricity. Then that electricity is transported over a vast distance (because no one wants to have a power plant in their backyard) and then all you do with that energy is power a motor in your car. All of those processes waste energy.

That's why combustion powered car is more environmental friendly then an electrical car, it wasts less energy.

Some might say that solar and wind energy is a good way to fill up the energy gap. The problem with those energies is that, wind energy is not available everywhere. And solar energy is still under development, and it was underdevelopment for last 40 years.

Even nuclear power is out of the question. Not because it produces nuclear waste, or is very dangerous (think 3 Mile Island). But because the world resources of easy accessible enriched uranium are also in short supply.

One thing is certain, some new ways of getting energy will have to be developed in near future, or the price of oil is not going to be our problem. Our civilization can go back to the way it was at the end of 19 century.

Sent by tj | 7:11 PM | 6-6-2008

@tj: "That's why combustion powered car is more environmental friendly then an electrical car, it wasts less energy."

Electric cars are no panacea to be sure, but they are much more efficient than gas powered cars. It is true that in most cases fossil fuels are used for both, but electricity comes from giant generators in continuous operation at peak performance with scrubbers and other technology to remove the worst of the smog forming compounds. A million little gasoline engines will never generate energy as efficiently or as cleanly. I'm no coal fan, but its better than internal combustion. It is also true that electricity suffers transmission-line losses, but gasoline is not delivered by fairies. The amount of energy lost in distribution is roughly equivalent in both cases. I used to ride an electric scooter. It achieved about 600mpg based on the amount of energy you can derive from a gallon of gas. A well-tuned Vespa will get about 90mpg. Electric cars are heavier so they don't do as well, but they still knock the socks off of internal combustion cars. If car makers switch over to hub motors electric cars really start to make sense.

Solar, nuclear, wind, and such probably will never completely power our grid, but getting to 50% with current technology is entirely feasible -- for about the same cost of invading a middle-eastern country. It is much easier to solve the problem of a few thousand power plants than a few hundreds of millions of cars. The biggest problem to going pure electric will be getting people to adjust to the notion that personal vehicles are a short-range option only.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:53 AM | 6-7-2008

Good old chris hasnt a clue about economics or markets..Typical leftist liberal..thats all. we have to bite the bullet eh? same crap we dealt with in the 80's and the demo's did nada..SOS

Sent by jdee | 6:25 PM | 6-7-2008

I did not read all of these posts but the majority are addressing the $8 gas issue with their own personal use, i.e. their commute and cars. I can't begin to grasp the reality of what$4/gallon gas will have in the coming weeks and months on us as a society, let alone $8. The cost of food at our grocery stores, all of the consumable goods that we buy from clothes to electronics, to the upkeep of our homes, heating and cooling, virtually everything will be economically affected! The unemployment rate will rise, and not to cause panic, I really think this trend is going to cause chaos in our society. This is not something to take lightly and preparing now is really key.
This guy has a good theory- but there are a lot of theories on paper that are not suitable for action! How long will it take our nation to convert to renewable resources? Not just a few months I assure you. I drive an SUV. not proud, just fact. We have this one vehicle for the entire family of 4. If we were to trade it in at this point- we would lose or tails with our loan and most likely pay an arm and a leg anyway for the difference. I think there are many American's in our same predictament. We all need to adjust and assimilate to the changes, figuring out how to do this will be the hard part.
I would not be opposed to taking public transportation if it was available to me. Just as somebody mentioned, I live in rural America. My commute to work is 30 minutes each way. There is no mass transit in my area, no bus, L train, subway or likewise... not even taxi cabs! I would actually consider rising 2 hrs. early to ride my bike, however, I have 2 toddlers to take to daycare and I refuse to ride my bike with them behind me on a busy highway everyday!
We do need to discover ways to cope- I hope that we all take this seriously and prepare and educate ourselves now and in the present~

Sent by Mollye VanOpdorp | 3:03 PM | 6-9-2008

A carbon tax solves this problem quickly. When considering the massive subsidies and even larger externalities, we are already at price parity with solar or wind. Getting the price of fossil fuels to tell their true ecological costs through a tax is the only answer that saves both the economy and environment.

Sent by Mike | 8:40 AM | 6-21-2008

@Mollye VanOpdorp: "This is not something to take lightly and preparing now is really key."

Yes indeed.

"I would not be opposed to taking public transportation if it was available to me. Just as somebody mentioned, I live in rural America. My commute to work is 30 minutes each way. There is no mass transit in my area, no bus, L train, subway or likewise... not even taxi cabs!"

Suppose you could go back ten years and do things differently, what things would you change? The inconvenient house? The giant car with the giant loan? The commuting unfriendly city? A lot of people have made a lot of bad choices over the past couple of decades and this is going to take a while to sort out. There will be some pain, but in the long run we'll be a stronger country for it.

Now that you mention it, I'll bet the daycare industry is going to start suffering. For those two parent households who use it by choice, the second income soon may not be enough to cover the cost of the daycare itself plus all the extra driving. More children will be raised at home. I think America will be stronger for this, too.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 2:11 PM | 6-22-2008

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