Monday, April 25, 2011 By Aaron Brown
But just three years ago we were living out the same story, with the same gas prices for largely the same reasons. It was almost as bad about two years prior to that. Is this part of the day-to-day coverage and discussion that most Americans get as part of their cursory news consumption? Not really. We study history in school, but the recent past has no meaning or context in our world.
We learn that gas prices are straining the economy and President Obama's re-election chances, two things influenced by myriad other issues as well. But gas prices make a lot more sense to everyday folks than the actual underpinnings of our economy and political system, and so that's what we are instructed to be outraged about.
In 2008 I bought a small SUV that gets 19 mpg in the middle of our last gas crisis. That may not seem wise, and maybe it wasn't, but I live on the end of a muddy second-day-plow dirt road and could no longer tolerate being paralyzed in the wilderness every time we got more than six inches of snow or during spring thaw. Still, this whole justification runs contrary to the economic incentive I would otherwise have to run a smaller vehicle and live closer to my place of employment. In a nutshell, we are middle class and have no debt except our mortgage. We can handle the price increase, and so we will.
Can you? Can the working poor? Hell if I know. Certainly not comfortably. But let's not sit here and be surprised. Nothing has changed in our public policy nor in our attitudes about the use of petroleum products. As a society we continue to double down on the "big cars driving long distances" model, which will work fine as long as I am a college instructor instead of a sheet metal fabricator, and I don't pretend otherwise. Even if gas goes over $7 a gallon, I can do vast amounts of my work from home, as could many of my colleagues and the students we teach. I expect that I will have to do just that in the not-so-distant future.
Nobody likes $4 gas, or $5 gas, or anything that pinches our monthly budget. But no amount of boosterism by the oil industry or green energy advocates can produce a path back to $2 gas. Get over it. Make a plan. And TV news, still the biggest source of news for most people, could do a lot more to put this issue in proper context.