There’s been a hell of a lot of negativity going around recently on the news, in the blogosphere, and in the homes of SUV-driving soccer moms around the country about rising oil and gas prices. The Drudge Report had a running ticker on the top for a little over a week constantly advertising the new records oil prices were breaking. It was getting updated, it seemed, almost by the hour. Farmers are switching to mules to pull their tractors, saying it’s “the way of the future!” Cops are going old school too; with their cruisers chugging gasoline like desperate alcoholics, they have no choice but to start walking their beats in an effort keep costs down. And it’s only going to get worse says Robert Hirsch, an economic analyst and apparent Prophet of the Apocalypse. Hirsch stated on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that “$12 to $15 gas is inevitable” in the next two decades. That would mean that, the average American, filling a fifteen gallon tank just once a week, would spend between 20 and 25 percent of pre-tax income on gasoline.
Anyway, with all this pessimism floating around it was refreshing to find an article that, perhaps inadvertently, took a step back and put things into perspective. Some of the highlights:
- When you adjust for current exchange rates, gas costs $7.70 in France. Somehow it seems like it should feel better to know that somewhere, there’s a French guy getting screwed worse than you.
- Currently, an average of 3.7% of disposable income in America goes to covering fuel for transportation. That sounds like a lot, especially compared to 1.9% just ten years ago, but it’s still not as bad as the 4.5% people paid in 1981.
- Also, when you factor in improvements in fuel economy (which averaged LESS than 10 mpg in the 1970s!) and inflation, Americans are paying less per mile—“only” fifteen cents—than in 1981, when the cost was just a little over seventeen cents per mile.
But things are still pretty terrible, right? Well, not necessarily, for the middle class at least. In a heart-wrenching tale worthy of the silver screen, this same article wrote, “For many people, high energy costs mean fewer restaurant meals, deferred weekend outings with the kids, less air travel, and more time close to home.” Since I don’t have kids who could spend all Memorial Day weekend complaining about how we don’t get to go to Disneyland, maybe I don’t have room to talk, but it seems to me that staying at home with your family and friends to barbecue and play Frisbee instead of going to Applebee’s and spending three days crammed into an overcrowded campground with every family from suburbia is far from the worst tragedy that could befall today’s American home.
It isn’t even the worst energy crisis our country has faced. Just like the last one, we’ll get through it alright, and who knows? Maybe this was just the wakeup call our country—and our leaders—needed to make major strides towards energy independence.