Now that $4 gasoline has arrived, there is talk of $6 gasoline. And who says newspapers carry only bad news?
Is there anyone out there with a clear idea what gasoline and energy prices are going to do to our lifestyles? I hear of $6 gasoline, then dark hints that natural gas and electricity prices will follow.
At $3 per gallon, filling up was a nuisance. Today, it is downright painful — and Gov. Sonny Perdue’s elimination of a 2.9 cents per gallon increase in the state fuel tax is a joke, considering Georgia is collecting sales taxes on a product that costs 33 percent more than it did a year ago. You can’t solve every problem with tax relief, Gov., but I guess you had to do something.
We already see the effects of $4 gas (and $5 diesel) in our grocery stores, compounding higher prices caused in part by emphasis on turning corn into ethanol instead of food. General Motors announced the closing of four plants that make SUVs and trucks (If you want a Hummer, now’s the time, because they’re dinosaurs that never had a useful civilian life and are doomed to extinction by fuel prices). The airlines are in trouble, the outlet stores can’t be far behind. Oh, and I hear there’s a mortgage crisis.
Fuel prices hit everyone and affect everything. The economic shake-out will be fascinating but far-reaching as every product and service becomes more expensive, but just think about your own personal use of gasoline.
The next time you buy a vehicle, unless you just won the MegaMillions lottery game, you’re going to go for more miles per gallon (mpg). If you’re getting 17 mpg in your SUV today, what will you go for in 2009? Do you switch to a more efficient SUV that gets 22, or drop down to a Corolla that surpasses 30? Do you trade your beloved F-150 for a Ranger, or do you decide maybe you don’t really need a truck?
OK, that’s approaching blasphemy; all households need a pickup, but maybe not one that costs $120 to fill.
If you live in Lawrenceville, do you still drive to Commerce to the Nike store, or find a place to shop closer to home? Do Commerce residents quit driving to Athens and the Mall of Georgia to shop? Who knows?
Many local people struggled to get by at $3 per gallon. What does $4 per gallon do to them? How many jobs in travel-dependent businesses will go as the economy restructures itself to cope with the prices of fuel?
From time to time we’ll see dips in the prices of gasoline, but short of a worldwide economic collapse — which is not out of the question — the cost will trend upwards, and it will change the ways we live, drive, recreate, work and play. In 20 years, people looking at our current movies and television shows will laugh at the huge cars and trucks like we laugh at the wardrobes and hairstyles in “Dirty Harry.”
The era of energy so cheap it could be wasted without consequence is over, and adjusting to the new paradigm will be most traumatic for the nation that has two percent of the world’s population and uses a quarter of its resources.
Fasten your seat belts.
Mark Beardsley is editor of The Commerce News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.