Skip to content

The bright side to rising gas prices

I’m really not a “the glass is half full” kind of girl. I don’t like to pretend things are great when they aren’t. But there is a bright spot to rising gas prices. Two, actually. The first one I thought of all by myself, and the second one came with a little help from my sister.

For the first time in a long time, Americans are all angry about the same thing. Many times during our nations short history, different segments of society have grown hostile over one thing or another. Race, religion, war, and politics have all engendered passionate responses from some, but gas prices have made oil a four-letter word.

I say this confidently because I’ve been conducting a little experiment for the past couple of months. When filling up, instead of looking at the ground or watching the digital numbers rise in unfair proportions, I look around. I observe the other customers. Every single one is disgusted, many audibly. The response is the same no matter the age, race or gender of the driver.

On top of this far-from-scientific evidence, there’s the story of my sister and her husband, a happy couple whose financial livelihood depends on the oil and gas industry. In 2007, they bought an SUV, and in 2008, they are researching hybrid cars and looking to make a trade-in. All ironies aside, they too are adjusting to the changing market. While I resent the growing proportion of my paycheck that goes to flammable liquids, I have to say at least two of the side effects are positive.

For one, we’re a united people. The pain of high gas prices reaches across every economic, social, and geographic sector of our varied land. Maybe this universal angst can be channeled for good. Maybe not. But at least we as a people of a greatly diverse nation have one thing in common besides our citizenship.

Secondly, people actually care about how much they drive. Although it’s not necessarily because they care about the earth, it’s not a bad by-product. Driving less helps the planet, period. Car companies are also going green in an attempt to meet the demands of fuel efficiency. When gas hovered around $2 a gallon, Hummers and SUVs ruled the road. In a shocking role reversal, Kias and Hondas are now king. 

No matter how selfish the reasons may be, the result is less pollution, more responsible engineering, and perhaps even more exercise for some. This whole catastrophe could even spur lawmakers on to expand public transportation systems. I’m purposefully leaving out all the crappy things about high gas prices. What can I say, I’m trying to see the silver lining.

3 thoughts on “The bright side to rising gas prices”

  1. A little factoid to show the positive side of rising energy prices: U.S. oil demand has fallen 3 percent in 2008, the first significant six-month decline since 1991, and vehicular miles driven have decreased for the first time since the 1970s. We've needed this decrease in demand for a long time, but we are now finally motivated enough to go through with it.

  2. Another interesting unintended consequence: Since the number of miles driven has fallen, so have gasoline tax receipts, which go to finance new highway and mass-transit projects as well as maintenance on bridges etc. Other unusual happenings: the highway trust fund is forecasting a $5 billion deficit next year and Amtrak ridership is up 11%.

    Of course, less money spent on highways means fewer highway construction jobs, which means lots of lobbying to come. You can bet that there will be few cuts in the number of new road projects.

Leave a Reply to amber robinson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.