Tuesday, June 03, 2008
What can we do?
Now we come to the question of this whole gasoline debacle. What can we do? Unfortunately the answers are as complicated as the problem itself, but I will propose a few solutions.
1) Captain Obvious
I had a thought the other day. What would happen if the price of milk doubled tomorrow? You know what I would do? Use less milk.
Gas prices have increased greatly over the last several years, and demand has barely been touched. A reason that gasoline price increase has gone unchecked is because we keep buying it no matter how much it costs. When the market realizes it has this kind of power, prices will continue to rise until consumer behavior (that's us) changes.
If we really want to spend less on gasoline, the only solution that is entirely within our control is to simply use less. I know it sucks, but it's the truth.
2) Influence public policy
The second thing we can do is to try to increase the available supply. That happens by increasing refinery production, increasing imports from other countries, and increasing our own oil production. Most of these things we can only affect by trying to influence public policy. Decreasing regulation on these industries would allow them to grow, thereby reducing prices, but are we willing to deal with the consequences of decreased regulation? Increasing foreign oil supplies seems like a horrible idea, but it would provide some temporary price relief. Increasing our own oil production has been the most pursued route, but most steps in that direction are halted by local government.
What won't work?
1) Boycotting one company or one day.
Every creature that has breath has received an email telling them to boycott certain oil companies or to not buy gas on a certain day. These efforts are nothing short of a waste of time. Every company imports oil from OPEC and the Middle East. Even if they didn't, the oil is mixed when going to refineries, so no one knows where the oil that leaves a given refinery even came from. The gas you put in your car comes from everywhere. Also, boycotting a specific day makes as much difference in gas prices as fasting for a day would make in your overall weight. It might feel like you're making a difference until you go back to cheeseburgers and fries the next day.
2) Capping gas prices or rationing gasoline.
These are two considerations that make me cringe when I hear them. Capping prices means either that some oil companies will eventually (note "eventually") go under, or that the supply will strongly dwindle. Think about how cheap gas will be when there isn't any to buy. Rationing gas also makes no sense. Rationing already occurs when price increases because people can't afford more. Why make it mandatory?
We may not like the options before us, but there are only a few logical routes to pursue. If we continue to be uneducated about the situation, we will only make it worse. Let's make the necessary changes and move through this time in our lives.
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