Even the price of a soft drink has tripled in the last decade
For ordinary people the rise in the price of gasoline, long regarded as a consumer good, has produced far-reaching changes in our lives.
For the last ten years, as gas prices have soared, regular gasoline has gone from around $1.50 a gallon to well over $4 a gallon. The jump from $1.50 a gallon to $4 a gallon is about equal to the cost of going on a family vacation, while traveling to see a loved one across town or across the country is approximately equal to a week’s-worth of groceries. That doesn’t even take into account the costs of gasoline used for company vehicles or personal vehicles.
To complicate matters, the government takes the profits of the oil companies and gives it to Uncle Sam.
Long before the recent gas price hikes, the average American household has spent over three hours a week filling up his or her car, at a cost of several hundred dollars a year. Add the cost of a soft drink and other personal items and it becomes clear that we have several hundred extra hours a week, each of which could have been used to spend in better or more enjoyable ways.
There is no easy solution to an extremely serious economic crisis of which we are all victims. In a real democracy, the only remedy would be to use all available powers, including the power of the government, to force everyone to switch from their cars to bicycles, and to pump gasoline so that it is priced at the same level as water.
At present, that would be about $1.60 a gallon.
Stopping the gas price hike will take some sacrifice. It will require people to eat less frequently at restaurants, or to change to eating at home more often. Some families may have to find other ways to exercise, while others may have to change their heating systems.
The main impact of such a change will be to reduce the amount of energy being wasted, save time and money, and promote a healthier lifestyle, both for the individuals involved and for society as a whole.
The result would be a more prosperous country, one that would spend less time driving expensive cars and eating expensive restaurant meals.
Over the next few weeks we will continue to look at and compare the effects of all kinds of energy reductions. Because of the nature of the energy trade-off, hard choices have to be made.
We can’t all suddenly look like Tom Bower and decide to become vegan – though that would be nice – but we can at least be conscious of the principles that best serve our health and well-being, and those of our families.