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Transportation United States Politics Technology

The Specter of Gasoline At $5 a Gallon 1205

Posted by timothy
from the petroleum-human-engineering dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months — averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon. But gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption. 'If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we'd see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump,' says Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research. A sharp rise in the prices of oil and gas would crimp the nation's budding economic recovery would cause big political problems at home for President Obama, who is already being attacked by Republican presidential candidates over gas prices and his overall energy policies. On the other hand, environmentalists see high gas prices as a helpful step toward the development of alternative energy. Secretary Treasury Steven Chu notably said in 2008 'we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe' to make Americans trade in their 'love affair with the automobile' for a marriage to mass transit. In the meantime President Obama is in a bind because any success in tightening sanctions on Iran could squeeze global oil supplies, pushing up prices and causing serious economic repercussions at home and abroad."
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The Specter of Gasoline At $5 a Gallon

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  • Welcome to our world (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dave Whiteside (2055370) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:52AM (#39207503)

    we already top that in the UK:(

    • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:58AM (#39207561) Homepage Journal

      I was going to say - if I only payed $5.00 a gallon I'd throw a party. Right around $8.50 (give or take based on the exchange rate) a gallon is what I consider normal. Between this and the Americans I heard complaining yesterday that the Raspberry Pi boards didn't look to be available in the US -- I have to say that it comes across as petty whinging to the rest of the world.

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:12AM (#39207761) Journal

        I was going to say - if I only payed $5.00 a gallon I'd throw a party. Right around $8.50 (give or take based on the exchange rate) a gallon is what I consider normal.

        I assume you realize that your high gas prices are the result of high taxation and not natural market forces. You live in a democracy, right? Maybe you should do something about your own high gas prices rather than criticizing those of us that do. Unless, of course, you like paying more, then good for you. Stop berating those of us who like to pay less.

        • by Benji Minoskovich (1266090) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:18AM (#39207857)
          I agree. Voters and governments in Europe have made the choice to tax themselves up the wazoo on fuel. It's more tolerable there given their denser population, better public transit and "leaner" lifestyles. But the spot price of gasoline at the port in Rotterdam is almost exactly the same as it is in New York Harbor or the Gulf Coast. Europeans don't have to pay $8/gallon. Unrelated: It's also interesting to note that after years of $8 fuel in Europe, they have adapted with small diesels. There is little to no sign of the renewable fuels you hear being pitched by politicians on both sides of the pond.
          • by GNious (953874) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:32AM (#39208081)

            It's more tolerable there given their denser population [...]

            Judging from the snippets we see from the current US Elections/Pre-elections/whatever-you-call-that, the Americans are the denser ones....

          • by amck (34780) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:40AM (#39208181) Homepage

            For the most part, people have been moving to mass transit and more cycling (better cycle lanes), rather than renewable fuels. Also, people are moving more into cities, and investments are being made to make them more livable.

            All the mass transit / cycle lanes, etc investments are paid for by ... fuel taxes.

            In the event of a sudden crunch (eg. oh, a war in the middle East) and oil rises dramatically, it becomes possible for (more) people to switch from cars to buses. Also, the government can temporarily drop the fuel tax to stabilise matters for its citizens; and/or subsidize the poor (e.g. for home heating oil). These actions aren't available otherwise.

            Dramatic moves to renewable fuels weren't expected this side of the Atlantic (by anyone sane). Do the numbers: there's no way of growing that much biofuels without substituting for food. Its really only pushed as an answer in the US where solutions of moving away from automobiles is not seen as politically possible.

            • by rossdee (243626) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:51AM (#39208323)

              Mass transit is better suited to the higher population densities of European cities, much of the USA is too spread out.

              Cycling doesn't work in some parts of USA due to weather extremes. You can't bike when its 40 below zero wind chill, or on snow and ice.
              (and parts of the south are too hot.)

              • by busyqth (2566075) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:09AM (#39208547)

                Mass transit is better suited to the higher population densities of European cities, much of the USA is too spread out.

                While true, it is important to remember that the lower population densities and sprawling suburbs of the USA are an intentional creation of the auto industry, not just an accidental development or a law of nature.

                • by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:28AM (#39208815)

                  Well that's just not true.

                  The US automotive industry certainly didn't discourage the continuation of low population density areas but it had absolutely nothing what-so-ever to do with their creation.

                  The low density started when farming/fishing and the fur trade was ubiquitous. Earlier than that it started when nomads travelled large distances to track fauna for subsistence living.

                  You might think that's being overly pedantic on that matter but it isn't. The US had a much different history than Europe did. The US didn't colonize "naturally", it did so very forcefully and quickly by foreign pressures. That history is reflected in the layout of it's population.

                  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @12:10PM (#39210587)

                    The only difference between europe and the US is that europe never dismantled their transit systems. Most countries were struggling to rebuild after the destruction of WW2 and they needed to repair and maintain their infrastructure.

                    How do you think people got around US cities before the 1950's?

                    Every US city and most towns had extensive privately financed and operated mass transit systems before the massive government subsidies to free roads and parking were instituted. Gas taxes only pay for a portion of federal interstates, not the majority of roads, parking and asphalt required to support the car infrastructure.

                    Once a free government funded socialized road system was ready in the 1950's the auto industry bought up most of the private transit operations (street cars) and replaced them with buses while reducing service.

                    Many of the costs of driving are also subsidized by product prices and tax breaks. Building codes require minimum numbers of parking spaces. These private parking spaces are paid for by the prices you pay for products. Parking lots pay lower property taxes and employers can deduct the cost of parking provided from their income.

                    This year congress cut the mass transit tax deduction to $125/mo while increasing the parking tax deduction to $240/mo. In 2010, these were both $230.
                    Is this in the public interest?

                    If we could return the true cost of driving to drivers, mass transit would be profitable once again.
                     

              • by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:22AM (#39208711)

                Mass transit is better suited to the higher population densities of European cities, much of the USA is too spread out.

                We can only cover three quarters of the population economically, I guess we better not bother at all.

                Part of the problem is not population density but urban layout - we have designed our cities for cars and not walking, cycling, and mass transit. The sooner we try to fix it the better.

                You can't bike when its 40 below zero wind chill, or on snow and ice.

                Yes you can. Many people do. They make bikes, clothes, and accessories for this purpose.

                (and parts of the south are too hot.)

                People manage to bike in third-world and developing countries in the tropics. Take a nice easy pace and it is no more strenuous than walking, and you create for yourself a nice breeze.

                • by painandgreed (692585) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:54PM (#39213935)

                  Mass transit is better suited to the higher population densities of European cities, much of the USA is too spread out.

                  We can only cover three quarters of the population economically, I guess we better not bother at all.

                  Part of the problem is not population density but urban layout - we have designed our cities for cars and not walking, cycling, and mass transit. The sooner we try to fix it the better.

                  You can't bike when its 40 below zero wind chill, or on snow and ice.

                  Yes you can. Many people do. They make bikes, clothes, and accessories for this purpose.

                  (and parts of the south are too hot.)

                  People manage to bike in third-world and developing countries in the tropics. Take a nice easy pace and it is no more strenuous than walking, and you create for yourself a nice breeze.

                  What he was really trying to say is that Americans are generally too fat and lazy to ride bicycles or walk rather than drive cars. Hell, even on /., I've had Americans claim that walking four blocks to a subway station, riding the subway, and then walking another four blocks to where they need to go was too much work. Personally, I'm American and I'd love a European style train system in the US. However, it seems that most of the US, just want their cars between convience and the idea that only poor people on welfare ride buses.

              • by Jawnn (445279) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:40AM (#39209015)

                Mass transit is better suited to the higher population densities of European cities, much of the USA is too spread out.

                No shit, Sherlock. So your answer to that would be, what? Continuing with the same stupid behavior and hoping for the best? Or should we grow up, and recognize that they way we've been doing things is not sustainable and pursue a course that is?

              • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:41AM (#39209029)

                No. Just no. While thats true for some people, many people live in places well suited for public transportation, they just dont have it.

                I live in LA. Winter means I might want to put on a scarf early in the morning, but I still may want short sleeves by the afternoon -- that's not weather extremes. Its also densely populated. This place would be great to have public transportation --- but they filled in half the light rail lines decades ago because they decided to be a 'car town'. Now, I'm fortunate to be able to take a bus to work only because my (large) employer subsidizes the city to keep my line open, and though I live on a metro station it doesn't seem to go anywhere I'd actually want to go -- the beach, the airport, etc.

                While that excuse may work for Wyoming, the excuse of us being more spread out is nonsense for most Americans, just as it is when we talk about our flagging broadband market.

          • by PhotoJim (813785) <jim.photojim@ca> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:54AM (#39208377) Homepage

            Americans don't have to pay what they pay either - there are taxes in US fuel prices, just not as many as in some countries. The cheapest fuel is not in the US.

            Some countries actually subsidize fuel for their citizens. I think that's a dumb choice, but it's their choice.

            An interesting side effect of higher fuel taxes in Canada and especially in Europe is that vehicles tend to be smaller and more fuel efficient. That allows for denser parking (since vehicles don't take up as much space) and easier visibility for drivers on the roads, not to mention making our limited supplies of oil last longer.

            • by ideonexus (1257332) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @12:48PM (#39211211) Homepage Journal

              We do subsidize our gasoline in the United States, to the tune of $10 Billion in tax breaks a year [ideonexus.com], with which the Oil Industry did nothing to lower prices, but rather maximized profits with record earnings.

              I actually hadn't noticed gas prices going up here in the States. That's probably because my hybrid-electric nerdmobile can go 500 miles on a single 10 gallon tank of gas. In fact, everytime the price of gas goes up, so does the resale value of my car. Must suck to be one of the majority of Americans who didn't pay attention in science [wikipedia.org] or math [yahoo.com] class growing up. Ignorance is expensive.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:13AM (#39208577)

            I agree. Voters and governments in Europe have made the choice to tax themselves up the wazoo on fuel. It's more tolerable there given their denser population, better public transit and "leaner" lifestyles.

            And do you think this is a coincidence?

            If prices had been higher in the US, perhaps the urban sprawl would be less since people would not be as willing to throw money out the tailpipe. If there were higher densities "suburbs", then mass transit would be more practical and cost effective. If higher density developments were the norm, then it would be easier to roll out things like high speed Internet (a la Korean and Japan). Lower density housing also corresponds to higher rates of obesity (cf. multiple studies).

            So the choice to tax gas may be painful in one way, but it has (IMHO) ended up benefiting European citizens in many others. And now that oil prices are set to rise due to pure market forces (supply/demand), the Europeans are also in a better absorb the shock of it compared to the sprawling 'burbs of the US.

            You reap what you sow.

          • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:16AM (#39208625)

            Being from Germany myself, I consider it a good idea to use taxes to promote some adaption to a less wasteful lifestyle. And the income from fuel tax could be used to finance tax breaks in other fields (in practice, our government prefers to waste the money).

            About the renewable fuels:

            In 2008, when mineral oil prices were as high or higher than today, plant oil as diesel fuel had a small boom in Germany. But then mineral oil prices declined, and roughly at the same time (starting in 2008) energy taxes on plant oil used as fuel were introduced. Those taxes have been gradually increased over the last years, and from 2013 they will be just as high as on diesel.

            So the cost advantage has been lost with the difference in taxation disappearing, and renewable fuels are no longer attractive from a financial point of view.
            An exception is natural gas, which still has a tax privilege until 2018.

        • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:34AM (#39208101) Homepage Journal

          You are probably right about the reason for the higher price - though if Europe consumed at the same rate as the US - then prices would be quite a bit higher for everyone. So is isn't as simple as - "You chose higher prices."

          Secondly - it's a democracy - though right now the EU and US are making lots of noise about it being less of one. (Hungary) But more importantly, for simplicity, let's say it's a democracy just like the USA. Why do you think the people who feel the pain of high gas prices are in favor of them? Any American should know that democracy does not equal 'regular people' getting a fair hearing or equitable level of influence in government. In my case specifically it doesn't really matter at all as I'm an ex-pat and I can't vote here.

          But I'm not berating you for liking to pay less. I'm berating people who complain about the fact that they live some of the most priviliged lives on earth and still feel wronged. You just need to step out of the little bubble, see it from the outside for a bit, and it becomes painfully clear. (And rather embarassing)

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:54AM (#39208373) Journal

          I assume you realize that your high gas prices are the result of high taxation and not natural market forces

          You think natural market forces have anything to do with road transportation in the USA? How much subsidy - state and federal - does the highway system get? What about the car makers (and I'm not just talking about the recent bailouts, look at tax breaks for factories at the state level too)? And that's before you even look at the cost of wars to secure the oil supply.

          A little while ago, someone posted a complete breakdown that showed that car travel receives, in total, something like three times as much subsidy as tail travel per passenger mile in the USA.

      • by Larryish (1215510) <larryish@gmail.cDEGASom minus painter> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:14AM (#39207797)

        There is a difference of scale.

        How far do you in the U.K. drive in an average work day?

        Here in the states, some days I drive 400+ (~640km) miles, especially when prospecting for new clients. Even when not prospecting the distance is around 100 miles per day (~160km) because I live in a rural suburb.

        Any differences in price of gasoline (petrol :) might be partially accounted for by sales volume.

        The United States is a big frikkin' place.

        • by dintech (998802) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:22AM (#39207921)

          I think this is why younger people are focusing their lives in the urban centres where possible. The benefit of mass (cheap) transit and shorter commutes trump rural idylls. Eventually it will be come untenable to live in the countryside unless you have work there.

        • by oPless (63249) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:31AM (#39208049) Journal

          What's that?? Us English shout and scream every time the Government raise petrol tax. Occasionally we protest too.

          As far as I know we're already diluting regular unleaded with up to (by law) 5% ethanol - with the resultant loss in MPG, and there's moves to increase this to 10%. Alas figuring out who's diluting regular petrol with this crap and selling it for 5p more than my current supermarket petrol is difficult.

          I'm talking about a tank of fuel that one fill up takes 35mpg from station, to 25 from another ... same journeys, same weather. same week.

          I drive a good 130 miles a day to work and back currently. Though in the UK that's not a normal commute.

        • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:46AM (#39208255)

          The United States is a big frikkin' place.

          So is greater Europe - if a German salesman chose to cover Northern Norway through Southern Italy as his territory, he's be doing a lot of travelling too.

          You drive about as much as you choose to drive, if you don't like driving so much, get a different job - possibly in a different town. In America it is popular to live in your car 2 hours+ a day (sometimes 8+ hours, as in your case), but it is not required, or necessary.

          When I lived in a suburb of Houston, my house was 4 miles from the office and 1/2 mile from the grocery store - the idiot in the cubicle outside my office commuted 3 hours a day, he could afford a house in my neighborhood, to rent or buy, he just chose not to.

        • by ledow (319597) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:50AM (#39208311) Homepage

          I do 500 miles in a standard working week, doing one journey a day to/from a bog-standard 9-5 job at a single site.

          Where do I live? London.
          Where do I work? London.

          How much would it cost on public transport? More than my (expensive UK) petrol costs, mainly because of a very efficient engine, in a 15-year-old car. That's not counting my extra lost-time travelling, though.

          How much more hassle is it to rely on the Tubes, Buses, etc. instead of a car in London? Add about 2-3 hours onto my working day on a PERFECT day with no stoppages or delays (which I've never witnessed on the London Underground) and where I catch everything just as it leaves the station. Some days, it's actually technically impossible to do that journey by public transport because of all the outages.

          Direct, my place of work is half-as-many miles from me, involving THE worst roads in London and hours of queues every morning. A 7 mile detour onto the orbital motorway around London saves me over an hour every day and stops me crawling at 20mph along miles of main "A" road.

          I do *not* live on the very outskirts. If you do, you can drive much more than me (about 30% more I'd estimate). Going North/South is even worse because of the direction of most traffic through London at that time of the day (and you can burn more petrol than a 100 mile a day in a single journey just queuing through everyday queues).

          Now multiply that up by people who *can't* afford to live near London and/or commute in from Oxford, etc. and it soon gets just-as-crazy.

          The American disease is thinking you're worse off than everyone else and making a bigger fuss than everyone else. The English disease is *knowing* you're not worse off than others, but moaning like you are anyway.

      • by DesScorp (410532) <.DesScorp. .at. .Gmail.com.> on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:18AM (#39207859) Homepage Journal

        I was going to say - if I only payed $5.00 a gallon I'd throw a party. Right around $8.50 (give or take based on the exchange rate) a gallon is what I consider normal. Between this and the Americans I heard complaining yesterday that the Raspberry Pi boards didn't look to be available in the US -- I have to say that it comes across as petty whinging to the rest of the world.

        The rest of the world can go pound sand then, because the reason you have expensive fuel is your own fault. You elect governments that keep the price artificially high in order to discourage cars and shovel people into mass transit. A huge chunk of your price is taxes. If you don't like this, then it's fully in your power to change it by changing your governments. If high gas and mass transit is what you want, hey, have at it. But quit telling us we're "whining" because we want to do it differently, and actually notice when prices go up.

    • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:58AM (#39207567)

      Most of us would love to use a viable and convenient mass transit system, and thus use as little fuel as you are able, but it's simply not practical.

      I've tried to use the bus system in my city - I can drive 15 minutes to work, or I can bus for about an hour and fifteen minutes. It's not worth losing an hour each way.

      Unfortunately, cities here are focused on building massively expensive 'boutique' mass transit that only gives current riders fancier options, and doesn't actually introduce new riders who used to be driving.

      We really need more subways here in US cities, but even those might have limited use as so many people live in suburbs where an underground probably wouldn't run anyway.

      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:09AM (#39207691) Homepage
        This is the exact reason I've taken to biking to work as long as there is no snow. Riding a bike often takes the exact same time, or only 10% longer, than driving, and is much faster than the bus. Cycling is not for everyone I admit, but I find the rates of cycling seriously low. People would rather drive their car to get a loaf of bread when a bike ride would be just as easy. Most people could walk it, but people don't even think twice about driving their cars. Maybe the high gas prices will get more people to just stop driving their cars so much. It would really be great.
        • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:38AM (#39208155) Homepage

          People would rather drive their car to get a loaf of bread when a bike ride would be just as easy.

          Oh, purlease. Pick up keys, get in car sitting right outside, drive.

          Versus squeeze into lycra bondage gear, pick up keys, haul the bike out of secure storage, check tyre pressures, ZOMG where's my super-safe-helmet, find super-safe-helmet, realise you've dropped the keys, find keys again, undo seven kinds of lock, put on cool looking yellow glasses, finally climb on, wobble off, stop to adjust squealing brakes, get hit by your wife coming home in her car with the loaf of bread.

          For context, I cycled to to work today, but all that healthsome fresh and exercise didn't somehow destroy my ability to look at a watch.

          • by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:33AM (#39208895)

            I can play this game too. . .

            Pick up keys, get in car sitting outside, notice check engine light is on, call the shop to schedule an appointment that will cost you $1273.39, drive to store, spend 40% of your time sitting at stop lights breathing in car exhaust, stop at the gas station, wait five minutes, shut off car, swipe card, read error, swipe again, pump gas, get back in car, continue driving/sitting at lights, circle parking lot 7 times trying to get a spot, walk across lot, get backed into by someone backing out, yell and swear, get bread and products for the next new diet fat (can't understand why still fat, these products all claim weight loss without exercise), walk back out to car, find dent in door from shopping cart, drive/sit at lights back home, pay car insurance bill.

            Pick up keys, get bike from garage, ride to store, chat with pretty girl on bike with flowers in her basket at stop light, park at the bike racks right up front, lock, get bread, unlock, ride home.

      • by Ucklak (755284) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:11AM (#39207739)

        Exactly. Those who say the US can use mass transit have never been here.

        San Francisco is not like Denton, is not like New York City, is not like Kansas City, is not like Conshohoken, is not like Phoenix, is not like Columbus, etc.....

        You also can't use mass transit in farming communities.

    • by troon (724114) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:01AM (#39207599)

      My last fill-up of diesel was £1.429/litre, which is £5.41 for one of your tiddly US gallons (£6.50 for a real gallon).

      At today's rate of £1 = $1.5942, that's $8.62 per US gallon.

    • by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:26AM (#39207985) Homepage

      How often do you need to drive from Dundee, Scotland to Poole, England?

      646 km seems to be about as far as one can drive in the UK --- that's just 400 miles --- not a terribly long trip by U.S. standards and for me, located in a town which takes advantage of its central location as an argument for businesses to locate here, or do business w/ businesses here, won't get one to more than a small portion of the U.S. (and part of Canada --- New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and most of Ohio, Vermont, and parts of Kentucky and North Carolina --- there are 50 states, and that's not even the original 13 colonies (but includes parts of territories and subsequent additions).

      I've hopped in a car and made a solo trip of 900 miles one way in one 18 hour haul (had to finish a shift working, then appear at a conference and there wasn't a convenient airline connection) --- even that wasn't half-way across the country.

      When I was stationed in Texas we'd get students in from Europe and the Middle East and they'd have purchased 30-day Greyhound bus passes thinking that they'd be able to see the U.S. on the weekends --- had to explain the reality that if they hopped on a bus Friday at 5:00 p.m., they'd reach the boundaries of Texas just in time to have to turn around to return for class Monday morning (that same 400 mile radius doesn't quite cover all of Texas (but does most of Oklahoma, almost half of New Mexico and small bits of Arkansas and Louisiana (and a portion of Mexico)).

      William

  • Gas prices are already approaching € 2 / liter in Western Europe. What are you guys complaining about ? Get a life !
  • Shale is coming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yog (19073) * on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:53AM (#39207515) Homepage Journal

    The idea of spurring development of clean alternatives such as solar-charged fuel cells and the like is very appealing, but these technologies are simply not up to speed yet and likely won't be for at least several years.

    Meanwhile, U.S. firms are busily building infrastructure to extract oil and gas from shale deposits estimated to hold 1.5 trillion barrels, or about 5 times the current Saudi reserves of 300 bbls. There's an additional 60 bbls in the Gulf of Mexico and another 30 in Alaska. Fully exploiting these deposits would cause the U.S. to become an energy exporting giant in about ten years, even as the Middle East oil supplies begin to wane, leading to a dramatic shift in global geopolitical priorities.

    Environmentalists like Treasury Sec. Chu obviously won't approve of this trend, but the hard reality is that fossil fuels are not going away soon, thanks to technological advances such as "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing using horizontally injected water).

    I really don't think it's a good idea for the Treasurer of the U.S. to advocate high gasoline prices. For gasoline to rise above $5 may make sense from the point of view of encouraging conservation and alternative systems like hybrid electric and plug-in electric cars, but in the short term it would cause tremendous hardship to the people. As transportation costs rise, so does the cost of basic necessities such as food, clothing, and daily commutes. Airlines would suffer as well. The economy will probably sink back into recession, and you can just picture Mr. Obama calling the Secretary into his office: "What were you thinking, Steve? It's election year!"

    Personally speaking, as a solar buff, I would love to see a massive conversion to cleaner and more efficient methods of transportation and heating/electricity. It would also be nice to encourage more use of bicycles (and even walking) as an alternative to the almighty automobile in the U.S. From that point of view, high gas prices are great.

    But when it comes to jobs in an already shaky economy, it's going to be disastrous, and may in fact change the electoral outcome this November.

    • Re:Shale is coming (Score:5, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:09AM (#39207699)

      Nuclear is ready. But everyone is scared of it. And no one wants to deal with the waste (even if you plan [wikipedia.org] to bury it it the middle of the desert, 2,000ft underground).

    • Re:Shale is coming (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @11:01AM (#39209377)
      Shale isn't becoming viable just due to new technology, but also because less efficient sources become economically viable when the price of gas is higher. In other words, no amount of shale oil is bringing back $1.25 gasoline, because it costs more than that to produce.

      As for Sec. Chu advocating higher gas prices, the time to do that was when prices were lower. Paying extra money to your own government - i.e. to yourself - in taxes is quite different than paying it to OPEC or Venezuela where you will never see it again. The extra gas tax could have been used to provide more efficient transportation options so higher gas prices were more tolerable. But of course this talk is all nonsense - politically, the US is nowhere anywhere near any sort of planning or sacrifice for the future. We're not even close to paying for our own current expenses. Despite all the vitriol, Obama nor Chu haven't done jack to increase gas prices. You can put your finger on a couple things like the Keystone pipeline but the figures don't add up to anything significant.

      It's just pathetic to watch us go through this cycle of high gas prices and incessant whining again and again, like clockwork, each time being shocked and outraged, and doing nothing substantial about it.

  • Wind, solar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:53AM (#39207519)

    One problem is the disingenuous "all of the above" stuff you hear them spouting in the media. Wind and solar are not anywhere near being able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Rather than massively investing in building out wind and solar we should be spending all that money researching ways to make it viable instead of a gimmick designed to enrich campaign donors and their startups' poor business plans.

    It's the same with ethanol - it's not viable as an energy source, but it's quite profitable as a political source.

    Yet another point of dishonestly is even using the phrase "reduce our dependence on *foreign* oil" when really they mean any oil. This is not bad in itself, but it's also weasel wording to imply they'd like to leverage more domestic oil sources when really, they want nothing of the sort.

    We're never going to get anywhere on energy policy until we make honest efforts and have honest discussion.

    • Re:Wind, solar (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:06AM (#39207653)
      If using *foreign* oil starts the process for people sorting out energy consumption then why not use that.
      In the UK they've used HUGE prices. So solar power starts to break even very soon. when it gets to about 7-10 years I think about it. The problem now is i don't want to install stuff and 15 years later have to pay for obsolete stuff to be removed, just as it breaks even.
    • by DudeTheMath (522264) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:28AM (#39208025) Homepage

      campaign donors and their startups' poor business plans.

      1. 1. Design improved-efficiency solar panels
      2. 2. Have government-subsidized Chinese plants sell panels for two-thirds my production cost.
      3. 3. Loss!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:54AM (#39207537)

    trade in their 'love affair with the automobile' for a marriage to mass transit.

    Mass transit is great until they go on strike [www.cbc.ca].

    I took the bus for a long time. It was always a miserable experience (crowded busses, never on time, routes that made no sense, etc..), and this strike was the final straw. Went out an bought a gas guzzling car.. and will probably never use the bus system again.

    (Just felt like venting that...)

    • by Jawnn (445279) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:55AM (#39209277)

      It was always a miserable experience (crowded busses, never on time, routes that made no sense, etc..), and this strike was the final straw. Went out an bought a gas guzzling car.. and will probably never use the bus system again.

      (Just felt like venting that...)

      Yeah, because every mass transit system must be just as bad as the lame one that you suffered through. Right? There couldn't possibly be any cases where a mass transit system, and a community planned to make efficient use of it, would actually work. Right?

  • Gas Prices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @08:59AM (#39207581) Journal

    1) stop the massive systemic subsidies to petro-firms (including tax breaks and hidden subsidies like free/cheap land use fees, etc.)

    2) apply a DIRECT user-tax to vehicles, based on their mileage at registration (ie you buy your annual tabs, report your mileage, pay a tax). This would be based on road maintenance costs.

    3) tax gas like any other sale.

    I drive 100 miles a day, I don't mind paying a user tax on those miles, because I'm using the shared resource of roads. But it's bullshit that they can apply a gas tax (ostensibly for highway maintenance) and then steal that money for other purposes in government, then come back saying the tax isn't high enough.

    With a tax code that (depending on who you talk to) is 50k pages and 5 million words long, we really need to stop social engineering in our tax code. It's a crazy idea, but maybe taxes could just be about, oh, covering the cost of government, and not about incentives or disincentives decided by some dude in an office somewhere.

    I know, crazy ideas.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:12AM (#39207767) Journal

      The idea that road and fuel taxes pay for the total cost of road maintenance is a persistent myth. It is totally and completely untrue. The cost of road maintenance, construction alone is far higher, add the costs for emergency services dealing with road/car related issues and it goes even higher. Add policing for safety and the costs skyrockets.

      Not that we have a choice, we need roads but we ALL pay for them from our ordinary taxes. Money from fuel tax might go somewhere else but that just means money flows from somewhere else to the roads.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:18AM (#39207853)
      A "gas tax" works, in terms of discouraging people from driving excessively large vehicles (which reduces the utility of roads for everybody else, in case you hadn't noticed, not only by taking up more space but by driving up insurance owing to the greater harm to others when large vehicles are in collisions.) Fuel consumption is not only related to carbon dioxide emissions but to the wear on the roads, since large vehicles do far more damage (I think it is roughly a cube power law of the mass, but I'm sure someone out there knows better). Mileage tax is not. It almost encourages people to drive badly.

      The effect of the European tax regime has been to encourage efficient vehicles, and both European and Japanese manufacturers benefit. It also pads the effect of fuel cost, since taxes can be adjusted to slow the rate of increase and so reduce economic dislocation.

      When the great American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked that taxes were what he paid for civilisation, he was in effect pointing out that all taxes whatever are social engineering. Small Government Republicans always claim that they want to reduce taxes, but somehow it turns out that as soon as the economy has a bit of slack representatives will vote for pork barrel (your bridge in Alaska in exchange for my bioethanol subsidy). Personally I think it is better if people without an axe to grind work out how to use taxes in a socially beneficial way and politicians only get to vote on it.

  • by Xenious (24845) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:00AM (#39207587)

    Let's stop the influx of "get over it" comments from Europe by removing the taxes from the price discussion. Then we can all equally complain about the cost of refined petrol instead of how much our governments like to add to the fees.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:05AM (#39207639) Homepage

    What's really mind-blowing is the GOP candidates (except Paul) attacking Obama for both
    1) not being tough enough with Iran [nytimes.com]
    2) and for high gas prices [nytimes.com] (!)

    In what universe do they live in where they don't realize pressuring an oil-producing country is going to raise oil prices (and hence gas prices, it doesn't fall from the sky)?

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:18AM (#39207851) Homepage Journal

      Not only that, but these people who love the free market are complaining that the president isn't playing dictator and directly controlling gas prices. They want an open market for oil, which is exactly what we have today, yet blame the president for how that open market acts. I'm not shocked at their own hypocrisy, I'm just always surprised at how many people fall for it.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:49AM (#39209151) Homepage

      In the same universe where Obama was solely responsible for:
        * Invading Iraq and Afghanistan (he voted for it as senator, but so did almost everyone else)
        * Causing the financial crisis (he wasn't in the senate when most of the deregulation occurred that caused the problems)
        * Allowing illegal immigrants to take over the country (actually, he's deported more illegal immigrants than any other president)
        * Taking away your guns (actually, the only gun-related legislation he passed made it legal to carry guns in national parks)
        * Massive increases in federal spending (the food stamps and unemployment spending were just the Obama administration following pre-existing law)

      But if you listen to the Republican debates at all, you'll find that these are the kinds of things a lot of that party really believe.

  • by MetricT (128876) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:06AM (#39207643) Homepage

    I've already seen some of my Facebook friends grousing about how speculators are gouging them. They have a hard time understanding how much the world has changed in a decade. Most of it is due to static oil supply meeting rapidly rising oil demand, coupled with extremely inelastic demand for gas. Within a few years we have another billion or so people competing with us for the same barrel of oil.

    It's actually hard to speculate in oil, simply because there's no place to store enough to make a huge difference. Most "speculators" are sovereign countries, who are wagering that oil left in the ground today would be more expensive tomorrow.

    Iran produces about 5% of the world's oil. If Israel and Iran go at it, the price of oil would go through the ceiling. The price of oil is set by the cost of extracting the last barrel of oil, and tapping those deep-sea oil wells and Canadian oil sands for that last barrel of oil is extremely expensive. If it costs $100 to produce that last barrel of Canadian oil, why would Saudi Arabia sell their oil for $20 instead of $100 too? They'd be leaving money on the table. That's why the last barrel sets the price.

    And if a country expects a barrel of oil to shoot up $50 in the event of war, it makes sense to either charge more for pumping it today, or leave it in the ground until the price goes up naturally.

    To put this in Slashdot terms, supposed you had a complete set of Babylon 5 collector plates that were worth $100 today, and you expected them to be worth $1000 next year from now, would you sell them now or wait? The smart thing to do is either wait until next year, or require the buyer to pay you a premium today above the $100 asking price. Expectations affect the price. And if you wait until next year, you have reduced the global supply of collector plates on sale, so the price goes up a bit to compensate. Supply and demand also affect the price.

    If you're really worried about speculators, buy a Prius, Leaf, or Volt. Last time I checked, no one's been able to form a cartel on sunshine and wind. And if you drive a big SUV, stop whining about how speculators, government, Democrats, or "The Man" is screwing you, and take a long, hard look at how you are screwing yourself.

  • Inflation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:11AM (#39207733) Homepage Journal

    I hope you all recognise that the prices of gas are being moved up by inflation, not by any increase in demand (demand in US is lower than 5 years ago), not by any decrease in supply (supply is greater now, with the demand being lower, and shale oil came online, there is more output).

    It has nothing to do with any speculation on oil prices - speculators only discover the price that the economy sets for the underlying asset in whatever currency that is being speculated in. There are always 2 sides in every speculative action - some bet that prices go up and some bet that prices go down, you don't see politicians come out and blame speculators for LOWER prices, politicians like to take credit for lowering prices themselves, but speculators are always blamed by the politicians for higher prices.

    In totalitarian nations (like former USSR), speculators were actually sent to prison, if not worse, all while government was printing billions of worthless paper and fixing prices, which always creates black markets and causes prices in the devalued currency to spike.

    USA will not see lower prices as long as the Fed keeps printing, and the Fed will keep printing to prevent interest rates from spiking during T-bill and bond auctions, Feds promise to keep interest rates down for years, and this is done by buying up the Treasury debt with fake money.

    I had a funny thread going on here [slashdot.org], the guy can't understand basic inflation and that his house price is falling in terms of real money and in terms of his purchasing power, he expects the value of his house to go up, believe it or not.

    Real values of the houses cannot and should not go up, the Fed is trying to preserve the nominal values, so money supply is inflated, real prices are falling, while nominal prices are staying up pumped by inflation that the Fed creates. This will cause all nominal prices to go up, but real prices are falling because of under-consumption, but not because people are saving. USA is using less energy than before (even less electricity), this is inconsistent with any recovery, it's not a recovery, people cannot afford to spend. But they can't afford to spend because they are not producing anything themselves, and they are not producing anything, because manufacturing left the country and manufacturing left because money is not good, inflation is killing savings and investment and taxes are historic high.

    They'll tell you that taxes are very low based on % of GDP, but that's nonsense, GDP has been falling for 2 decades as real inflation is 11-15%, and so the deflater that is applied to the GDP is fake. USA is in a real depression, not a recovery, not a recession even. This is all done with fake money. The banks' earnings are fake, they are moving Fed's money and Treasury debt around, that's all they do. You can't have real investment credit because there are no savings, savers are being wiped out or pushed out of the country, all while the politicians are using every tool in their arsenal to gain popular vote, it's called class warfare and it's being used against you to destroy your economy.

  • Obama's Fault? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goboxer (1821502) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:20AM (#39207895)

    Are the high gas prices because Obama decided not to give more subsidies to gas companies? Is it because Obama has somehow magically started a secret war in Iran that nobody knows about but Republican candidates? Or is Obama literally 51% or more of the oil speculators?

    I'm all for making your opponent look bad, but I have a hard time seeing how Obama is to blame for current gas prices. Feel free to enlighten me.

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hnice (60994) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:23AM (#39207951) Homepage

    The writing's been on the wall for years. If your car gets 35mpg and you live within 15 miles of your job, an increase of $2 a gallon hits you with a whopping $5.80 increase per week -- what's that, a big mac? A latte and a half?

    And if you *haven't* got a fuel-efficient car and tried to live where you work or close to transit, given how long we've known that gas prices fluctuate in response to world events, well, you've done it to yourself. Shut up.

    Free market, y'all. You asked for it, you got it, and you demanded a house with a lawn and an SUV anyway, and now you've got the nerve to cry about gasoline prices? I believe the french refer to this sort of thing as 'yo problem'.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:31AM (#39208055) Homepage Journal

    Check out what the rest of the world pays per litre, look at how far down the US is on the list -- even lower than Canada, which produces the damned stuff.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_gas_pri-energy-gasoline-prices [nationmaster.com]

    Now STFU and pay like everyone else -- WITHOUT government subsidies!

  • Get out more (Score:5, Informative)

    by speedlaw (878924) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @09:51AM (#39208315) Homepage
    I'm a Murican. Gas is now about $4.00 in my area, the northeast. This summer I went to Germany, where gas is $10.00 per gallon, both due to cost and the useless dollar. We rented a BMW 320d, which got a verified 49 mpg on diesel, and still ran hard at autobahn speed that would get me jail time in the US. Most cars in Germany are diesel, 2.0 liter with a manual transmission. We even saw the Chrysler minivans outside a school picking up kids, just like here at home. They all had a diesel. I'd love to buy a modern turbodiesel instead of a Hybrid. There aren't any for sale, save VW/Audi, backordered to 2014, or very expensive MB/BMW. You can get 50 mpg...it can be done...they don't sell those cars here.
  • cheap still (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anonieuweling (536832) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @10:46AM (#39209123)
    $5/gallon is cheap.
    We pay $7.5 a gallon NOW.
    We are in Europe. In the so called socialist Netherlands.
    Your country was designed wrong.
    Gas guzzling cars. (still!) Cities with no real transportation infrastructure other than for cars. Large distances, even in cities.
    How well will this work when gas hits $8?
    Your cities need to be more compact. As do your cars. See the European and Japanese smaller cars. (small: weight is less than 1.5 metric tons)
    Consider a diesel!

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